Posts Tagged ‘Following Christ’

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“PUKING OVER PURSUED GREATNESS” – Feb 11

February 11, 2015

““…whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6

 I want to be like Tony Martin… the cyclist, not the singer.  Tony Martin is a three time world champion and an absolute monster in the individual event where cyclists race against the clock.  The individual time trial is the “race of truth” since winning depends only on a rider’s strength and endurance.

I imagine being Tony Martin in the obscurity of my basement while spinning on my trainer.

Just like Tony Martin,…

I lie low over time-trial handlebars in a sleek aero-position.
I crank out intervals in my big chain ring.
I practice the Tony Martin open mouth “air scoop” breathing method.

I am a world champion time trialer… in my basement.

The sun shone brightly on a recent Saturday with temperatures above 40 degrees F and only a slight wind.  It was the perfect opportunity to turn my Tony Martin impersonation loose on the local rural roads. I kicked gravity loose and after a short warm-up, I was flying along in the practiced aero-position of a world champion that my mind imagined me to be.

Tony Martin had positioned me such, that only an extreme craning of my neck would allow sighting any distance ahead.  I had to content myself with watching the road a mere 5 feet beyond my front tire.  An occasional glance into the distance was my only assurance that the road actually continued before me.  The problem with this approach was that my focal point was upon a road blurred with speed.

I powered through some rollers but on the ascent of the last hill I began to feel a little queasy.  I held my aero-position thinking that the exertion was causing my stomach discomfort.  At the top of the hill, I slowed my pedaling and allowed my heart rate to fall.  One cough and then another brought me out of my aero-position.  A few coughs turned into dry heaves.

What is going on?  I am about to puke.

"The Way Way Back"I had not been riding hard enough to make myself puke.  “This is ridiculous,” I thought as I tried soft pedaling between wretches.  As I sat up on my bicycle, my head swirled and my stomach gurgled.  These symptoms were all too familiar from a childhood of relegation to the backseat of a station wagon.

I had made myself motion sick.
I had nearly made myself puke over a pursuit of greatness.

My Tony Martin impersonation had backfired.  I had failed at one of the three principles of a proper time trial fit – comfort.  (The 3 Priorities of a Proper Triathlon Bike Fit)

Needless to say, I have raised my handle bars and conceded, “I am not Tony Martin; at least not today; probably not tomorrow either.” He is still my example but I just can’t do some of the things he makes look so easy.  Subsequently, I have ridden this same route in my new more comfortable position.  Even though I am not as low as before, this new position allowed me to maintain an aero-position through the majority of a ride.  The result was that I was significantly faster and I never felt like puking.

We have a plethora of examples in our lives – especially our spiritual lives.  Paul encouraged us to follow these examples.  Therefore, following the example of another more mature Christian is not a bad thing.  It is wise to learn from the experience of someone who has walked deeply in the Spirit for years.

I have a lot of spiritual heroes.  I appreciate the gift of faith that these people have demonstrated by their lives and the glory to God that they have been blessed to participate in. However, my greatest example is Jesus Christ himself.  There has never been a better example of how to live than the life of Christ.

However, what happens when we don’t
achieve the same result of our example?

I learned that I cannot hold an aero-position like Tony Martin, but that does not negate the value of his example.  I demonstrated to myself that I will experience more success by following Tony Martin’s example to the best of my ability rather than giving up completely on riding in an aero-position.  Therefore, I am not going to abandon my Tony Martin impersonation.  I am going to tweak it.  I will continue to tweak it because I know that even a tweaked Tony Martin impression will be better than doing it my own way.  However, my goal will always be the perfect impersonation.

I have seen many folks make resolutions in their spiritual lives influenced by examples from the Bible or some other exemplar example of true faith.  They were great godly resolutions.  Yet, they abandon their resolve when they discover that they just can’t get it done like they had thought.

February is the month when most resolutions are abandoned.  Often, the optimism of a new year gets crushed under the practicalities of real life and we find that we just can’t do what we had hoped.  Many of us find that the activities of those we want to emulate are just too hard to pull off.  When that happens, there is a strong tendency to give up.

long_road-aheadI posted my resolution for 2015.  I am already behind on several of them.  For one, I know that I won’t be riding like Tony Martin by August.  However, it would be silly for me to abandon my plans just because they are not working well in light of my everyday life.  Therefore, I am going to do a little tweaking and continue until I get something that works, because I know that it will be better than going back to my own way.

There may be a whole list of legitimate and illegitimate reasons for not doing what seemed so tangible in January.  Yet, it is good to remember we are on the long road of perseverance.

Just don’t give up. 
Don’t make yourself puke over a pursuit of greatness. 

Tweak what needs to be tweaked in order for you to consistently do what the Lord has drawn you to do.  Few goals are ever achieved in exactly the manner we plan.  We are all individuals with our own strengths, weaknesses, and personal commitments.  It would be unrealistic to think that a resolution will not have to be altered under the pressures of life.

Striving after the Lord is worth it.  Following Christ in our tweaked, imperfect manner will always be better than going our own way.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I need a lot of tweaking.  Forgive me for the imperfect manner in which I strive to follow you.  Help me to follow better.  Help me to not give up on what is good for my soul.  Help me to desire you more than anything else.  Lead me in way of following you in obedience and joy.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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RACE MODE – April 25

April 25, 2014

“You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Galatians 5:7

I have six weeks to go until the Ironman Boise 70.3. Time has slipped past quicker on the calendar than the asphalt has passed beneath me since my decision to enter (The Agnostic will never be an Ironman). My training has been very consistent yet my time-on-legs has not accumulated as rapidly as I would have liked.

Two rules of thumbs have come to press me into an uncomfortable dilemma. I need to add running miles slowly to avoid injury. Yet, I need to begin tapering from my longest run, three weeks before race day so I will be fresh when it really matters. I have been adding one mile per week. If I get in a 10 mile run this weekend, then I can get to 13 miles over the next three weeks, just in time before I need to start backing off.

It will all work out as long as I stay on schedule.

However, the weather has not been cooperating with my schedule. This last week has been full of rain and wind that has completely kept me off the bike and has forced me to limit my runs. I look to the forecast of the weekend without much hope of a break in the weather.  I need to get in a long run, but that will probably mean a miserable run in a cold, driving, rain.

My race day looms through the gloom of storms. The storm front will not push my race day back.  I will either have to endure through uncomfortable training conditions or face the disappointment of not being ready on race day.

If a race did not occupy a spot on my calendar, I would not train in inclement weather. I would not go out in miserable conditions when they could be avoided by delay. I would not strive to improve at the expense of unnecessary discomfort.  There is no need to endure the uncomfortable when there is plenty of time to train or there is no race on the horizon.

We train differently when we are in race mode. We have to demonstrate more self-control in our training when we are striving to do well in a race. Therefore, I will be going for a run this weekend. I hope it does not rain but I am resolved not to let the weather detour me from my goal.10299087_634665106615225_8860704770501170396_n

The same is true of our spiritual training. We live differently when we are in race mode.

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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

We all have a day coming when we cross the finish line of life. Will we finish well? Are we striving to obtain the prize? The storm clouds of life will not push back our final day. That glorious day should loom through all the momentary gloom of daily cares.

Yet, I do not see a lot of folks living in race mode. The self-control of spiritual disciplines is quickly discarded at the hint of inclement conditions.

Evening prayers are shortened to accommodate late-night TV.
Comfort is sought in ice cream rather than our Savior.
Praise of men governs a prideful tongue.
Charity is withheld in lieu of vacation.
Ministry is replaced by a nap.
Envy flourishes in the discontentment of loss.
Worship of flesh replaces praise of the Almighty.
Harsh words are not withheld due to unrestrained anxiety.
Morning bible reading is discarded for minutes of additional sleep.

It is easy for the cares of this world to throw us off our game. Self-control is difficult when the pressure and discomfort of a sinful will wars against our redeemed soul. It is easy to surrender to our sinful passions when we are living as if there is no finish line and cease to strive for the prize.

We do not live aimlessly. Our self-control is not in vain. We are following Christ in order to obtain the prize of eternal life. We are striving in our spiritual training to glorify the God we love and to enjoy Him daily. We say  “no” to our flesh because we are in a race for the glory of God and we only have so many days to the finish line.

Let’s not waste a day of training.  May we continue to follow Christ even when the world around us is miserable and we just want to stay in bed.  The finish line is coming and none of us knows the day.  What is hindering you from running well?

I think this video by John Piper, Make War, is excellent at describing the attitude we Christians should live in.

PRAYER: Father, keep me in race mode. Lord, help me to make war on my sinful flesh.  Don’t let me be live like there will always be another day to glorify you.  Help me to number my days.  Give me the strength to follow you in the foulest of circumstances.  Give me the perseverance to always strive forward in obedience regardless of what my flesh wants to do.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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I AM SETTING OUT – April 3

April 3, 2014

“So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth….And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho…” Numbers 33:5-49

Moses’ diary of the stages of the people of Israel while in the wilderness chronicles a consistent pattern. It is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary. The Israelites were constantly moving on. They were setting out from one place and heading to another place. They still did this pattern for decades because they were not in the promise land.

Desert

Desert (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The land they were passing through was not their inheritance. They were not to settle in a land filled with idolatry that would draw them away from following God with their whole hearts. We can read about what happened to the nation of Israel when they failed to take possession of the Promised Land and settle in it as God directed them.

The enticements of the settled land became barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and they had trouble in the land where they dwelt. (Numbers 33:55)

I wonder what the summary of my spiritual journey toward eternal life chronicles.

We get in trouble when our hope settles in this life. We are passing through a world of temptations that can become barbs that pull our eyes away from Christ. We are baited into fulfilling desires that can become thorns in our sides that hold us back.  The summary of our lives should demonstrate a consistent pattern of setting out from those loves that entice our hearts away from wholly following Christ.

I am setting out from my love of praise.
I am setting out from my pride.
I am setting out from my anger.
I am setting out from my gossip.
I am setting out from my success.
I am setting out from my failure.
I am setting out from disappointment.
I am setting out from my love of money.
I am setting out from my jealously.
I am setting out from my envy.
I am setting out from my worry.
I am setting out from discontentment.
I am setting out from my love of comfort.
I am setting out from my lust.
I am setting out from my fears.
I am setting out from my doubt.
I am setting out from unbelief.

I know there are a lot of things that I need to set out from. I can readily attest to the areas of my life where I settle. Many times, I will set out only to circle back to those sinful loves of my heart that bind me like thorns in my side.

DesertWe all have specific idols in our lives that have strong allurement. We should not be discouraged by the number of times we set out from these wayward loves. We will always battle temptations to settle for the false promises of this world.

I hope that the diary of my life is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary.

The pattern of a follower of Christ should be one of consistent setting out. While we are still in this life, we will be constantly setting out from those things that keep us from wholly following Christ. We can have confidence in a future of not settling because of the power of the Spirit. There is not a power in this world that can keep us from setting out in the power of the Spirit. I look forward to a future of not settling for anything other than my inheritance – eternal life as an heir of God. Therefore…

I am setting out from the idols that ensnare me.
I am setting out despite the barbs in my eyes and the thorns in my side.
I am setting out in faith, pursuing the Hope that will never disappoint.
I am setting out with a mind on the things of the Spirit.
I am setting out with a heart wholly devoted to Christ.

 

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me a hope to set out for. Forgive me for settling upon loves that will never satisfy me.  Forgive me for settling when I should be following.  Lord, help me to follow you.  Give me the power to set out.  Remove the barbs from my eyes.  Pluck the thorns from my sides.  Free me from all that entangles my love for you and you alone.  Thank you for saving me and giving me an inheritance that I did not deserve. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“DECIDING HOW TO SERVE” – Feb 18

February 18, 2014

“And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.”  Exodus 26:2

I love the Olympics in both its winter and summer forms.  Since we are in the winter cycle, I am enjoying the smorgasbord of athletic activity in rarely sampled varieties.

Français : Biathlètes femmes aux Mosses pour l...

I was fascinated as I watched the biathlon athletes combine the endurance of cross-country skiing with the precision of shooting.  I want to do the biathlon.  Maybe, I want to try it just because it looks cool to be skiing through the woods with a gun strapped to your back.  However, any biathlon aspirations  are inhibited by an absence of biathlon activity in the area where I live.  We do not have any gun range – ski course combinations.  There are no opportunities.

Aerials - Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships

I am amazed by the slopestyle competition.  These athletes soar off of jumps while spinning and contorting their bodies in the air and then somehow get their skis under them in time to land back on earth.  It is so phenomenal that I find myself muttering, “no way” after each competitor’s run.  However, I become motion sick by just watching them spin.  I completely lack the ability to take on slopestyle.

Bode Miller at the 2010 Winter Olympic downhill.

I watched the men’s downhill race.  Those guys are crazy.  They are moving at over 80 mph on steep, icy slopes.  That does not look like any fun to me.  My knees ache for them when the slow motion shows the jarring and chattering of skis trying to cling to a mountain at those speeds.  I have no desire to do alpine downhill racing.

I do not do any of these Olympic sports because I lack the combination of three distinct factors: opportunity, ability, and desire.

I know that many people struggle with knowing what God wants them to do with their life.  I have struggled with the gnawing feeling that I am wasting my life away.  I have been confused by the absence of opportunity to utilize my gifts and skills in the Lord’s service.  I have felt ashamed for not wanting to head into the mission field.  The reality  I often forget is that God is sovereign over opportunities, abilities, and desires.

God called for the building of His tabernacle.
That was their God- given opportunity.
God put the skill in His people to do the work.
That was their God- given ability.
God stirred up His people to want to serve.
That was their God- given desire to serve.

God allows us to participate in His work.  He draws exactly the individuals together He wants to do a specific work.  He is the one who give us our skills, desires, and opportunities.  We don’t have to worry that we are disappointing Him or wasting our talents.  We can trust Him to use us just has He has ordained.  However, there are so many good ways  we can follow Christ that it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do.  Therefore, I ask myself the following questions when considering where and how to serve the Lord:

Am I walking in the Spirit?  Am I setting my mind on the things of God or the things of man?  I want to be confident that I am not responding out of my flesh.  Therefore, I evaluate where I am spiritually, before I try to discern God’s calling.  I pray to the Lord to help me set my mind on Him.

What do I want to do?  God is sovereign over our desires and loves a cheerful giver.  If we are setting our eyes on the things of the Spirit, loving God with all of our hearts, and loving our neighbors as our selves, then I believe that God will faithfully stir within us the desire for the work that He wants us to do.  I pray that the Lord will stir up within me a desire to follow Him, whole-heartedly, wherever He might lead.

Do I have a particular skill or ability?  I would love to be a worship leader.  However, I don’t play an instrument and sing very flat.  I don’t have the ability to be a worship leader.  It is important to know what you are good at.  Bezalel and Oholiab had God-given skills as craftsmen.  They served God by doing what they were good at.  Everyone is good at something.  If you don’t know what you are good at, then ask someone who will give you an honest answer.  I pray that the Lord will grow the fruit of the Spirit within me and that He will be magnified in the skills and abilities that He has given me.

Is there an opportunity?  After I set my eyes on the Spirit, have an idea of what I am drawn to, know what I am good at, then I assess the opportunities to serve.  Is there a “tabernacle” to be built that I have been called to participate in.  I pray that the Lord will ready me for the opportunities to serve Him that are coming in my future.

When these factors align, it is an easy decision to say “yes”.  We need to expand our understanding of what it means to serve God and chill-out.  God has it all under control.

If being hospitable comes easy and you enjoy it, then be hospitable to the glory of God.
If you are naturally an encourager, then encourage to the glory of God.
If you love to study and can explain things, then teach to the glory of God.
If you love to work with your hands and enjoy building things, then build to the glory of God.
If you love numbers and enjoy when columns reconcile, then account to the glory of God.
If you are drawn to the sick and enjoy helping them get better, then be a doctor or nurse to the glory of God.

I think that you probably get the idea.  We don’t need to worry that we are missing out on any great plans  God has for us.  Just like Bezalel and Oholiab, we all are exactly where we need to be, when we need to be there.  We just need to be ready with a mind and heart that is set upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being in control of all things.  Thank you for giving me abilities and skills.  Thank you for giving  me a desire to serve you.  Thank you for giving me opportunities.  Father, prepare my heart, this day and every day, to follow and serve you where you have me today.  Give me the desire to glorify you in everything that I do.  May you be glorified.  May your will be done.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your plan.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“NAKED GUY” – July 10

July 10, 2013

“…the Lord spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.  Then the Lord said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years…” Isaiah 20:2-3

There is a naked guy down at the pool.  To be fair, he is not naked all of the time but he is naked way beyond my comfort level.

2005_12_04
2005_12_04 (Photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd)

This particular individual feels that it is necessary to be al natural while showering off pool water.  He is the only individual who takes this approach.  Everyone else leaves their swimsuit on while showering.  Most use the communal shower pole to wash the chlorine off of their skin and out of their suits in one efficient, modest, activity.  Naked guy does not take this approach, to my consternation.

I became acquainted with naked guy a while back after a particularly good swim.  I rounded the corner into the men’s shower and was caught unaware by naked guy.  There naked guy stood with suds flowing down over all his “overish-ness”; Over fifty and over-weight do not a good naked combination make.  First impressions are difficult to overcome, add nudity, and it becomes nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, that has not been my only exposure to all that is naked guy.  My timing has been poor on a couple of other occasions.  There will be naked guy, one arm extended over his head, leaning against the shower pole, looking over with a “hey” greeting.  I work so very hard to maintain eye contact or look at anything other than naked guy but it is sort of like a car wreck.  At some point, you have to sneak a peek.  I regret every peek that I have ever sneaked.  Curse you, naked guy; I am forever scared by those mental pictures.

Needless to say, I am very uncomfortable around naked guy.

The Prophet IsaiahI cannot imagine Isaiah’s reaction when God told him to become naked guy.  Even worse, he was told to be a full-time, naked guy for a three year term.  That had to have had an impact on his social life.  I don’t know if an Old Testament prophet had much of a social life to start with but refusing to get dressed probably would have put the dampers on dinner party invitations.  My own family would send me packing if I showed up at Thanksgiving with my only dressing being in a bowl.

Those had to have been some lonely years for Isaiah.  He was being obedient to God’s directing and made everyone uncomfortable in the process.  The words of Isaiah’s prophecy would have been uncomfortable enough.  It had to get even more uncomfortable when the prophet went naked guy.

Isaiah’s obedience is remarkable.

I realize that my belief in Christ has made some people uncomfortable.  Conversations have been steered away from the spiritual.  Invitations have been withheld.  Facebook “friends” have disappeared.  Snide comments have been posted to my writing.  The intellectually superior have dismissed my ignorant position.

However, none of that comes close to the stigma of being naked guy for three years.

Following Christ has never been the path to popularity.  We have been called to love God above everything else – even other people’s opinions of us.  Loneliness has been the price of obedience for many who have been called to difficult paths.

Isaiah’s obedience confronts our willingness to follow Christ.  How unreservedly will you follow?  Thankfully, getting naked in public is against the law so that is a good out.  But seriously, how far does acceptable obedience go?  The problem comes when God calls His children to what most consider the unreasonable.  The Bible is full of examples of God calling his disciples, apostles, and prophets to unreasonable acts of obedience.

What is acceptable giving?
What is acceptable service?
What is acceptable sacrifice?
What is acceptable suffering?

How far does your obedience go?

Does it go to the modern version of naked guy?

PRAYER: Lord, may there be no limits to my willingness to follow you.  You know my heart and how much the thought of being naked guy scares me.  Examine my heart – show me what holds me back from the unreasonable.  All that you direct is reasonable and good.  Help me to love you with all that I am.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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