Friday, March 26, 2010

Giving up...

If you give up when trouble comes, it shows that you are weak. (Proverb 24:10, NCV)

I can honestly say for the first time since Lent started I honestly feel like giving up - and with just 9 days until Easter there is only one word for this: stupid. Why can I only get so far in my efforts? It always seems that self-defeat sneaks in right at the worst time. Perhaps this is my weakness.

Maybe this is nothing more than the reason why we have sayings like, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I need to get going.

But practically, how do we actually do it? How does victory become a reality? If I can't succeed at something as foolish as not going on Facebook, then how do I expect to succeed at anything that is actually important in my life?

...To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, NLT)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Strengthening My Core

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

About four months ago I was seeing a chiropractor semi-regularly for some pain in my back. Her recommendation was very clear and very simple: I needed to strengthen my core. She suggested a few exercises and even suggested a book that I could refer to for some additional ideas. I went out immediately and bought the book, and that night I did my exercises. And for the course of my treatment with her I was doing pretty well. Unfortunately, when I stopped seeing her regularly, so my exercises stopped. Fast forward to today.

About a week ago, my knee started hurting so today I saw an orthopedist. he took xrays and examined how my knee moved. Fortunately nothing is broken or torn, but that doesn't make the pain go away. His suggestion? No joke: I need to strengthen my core. This time it came with a warning that if I don't strengthen my core now, I will cause serious damage to my knee.

So, I began thinking, if only I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, I'd probably be fine right now. Why do we know what we're supposed to do, and not do it? Why is it so easy to fall into the foolishness that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 7? In my physical life and in my spiritual life, I know what I need to do. I just can't manage to strengthen my core.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Faith and Deeds

We're spending the weekend in San Diego, with John's cousin and her family. From the freeway, you take the main road east to the last housing development before the lake. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a walk/run, they told me to take the path which would lead me down a ways with a great view of the lake. Sounded good to me, and true to their description I saw a beautiful lake, mountains in the distance, a great park, animals... It was very peaceful. When I got to the end of the path, I noticed that I was on a street which would lead me back to their home. So, I took the street back to where I started; it seemed more interesting than just turning around and walking the path again.

The next day when I walked again, I decided to walk down the street first, and then take the path back. I thought it would be nicer that way, so that I could save the gorgeous views of the lake for the second half of my journey. I was surprised to find that this time I hardly noticed the lake because of the angle of the path. Though it was there, I gave it significantly less attention than I had the day before. Was the lake any less beautiful? No, but the homes seemed more noticable and it was an effort to watch the lake.

I found it very interesting to realize that both the path and the street were the same journey. It seemed strange that the exact same walk had such a different emphasis.

In the same way, I began thinking about James 2, where we read about the expression of our faith and how that goes together with the good deeds we do. They are opposite sides of the same coin, but it seems that perhaps the method we chose has to do with how we start our journey. Those who are taught the importance of loving and worshipping God ("admiring the beauty of the lake") often miss the practicallity of life around them ("the cars along the street, and the people living their lives out of their homes"), and vice versa.

We must learn to find a way to live in balance, to both worship God for who He is and serve our fellow man as an expression of that love. One without the other is incomplete.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Avalanche of Sin

I was reading about David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) last night. It really is quite a fascinating story, and an excellent case study on sin. I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that EVERYONE knows that what David did was wrong - even David himself knew it (see 2 Samuel 12). Yet, we read of David doing what so many of us seem to do - planting one sin and harvesting a crop of evil. To try to cover up his sin David lied, murdered, and hurt many people. To think all of this could have been avoided if David had only done what he was supposed to do - work. His job as king was to lead his people to war in the spring, as was customary for them. But for whatever reason, David did not fulfill his obligation. And in his boredom, he went to the roof top... and so it began.

I was just reading up (thank you Wikipedia) on avalanches. It seems as though it takes a very particular situation for an avalanche to occur and then "when an avalanche occurs, as the snow slides down the slope any slab present begins to fragment into increasingly smaller tumbling fragments. If the fragments become small enough the avalanche takes on the characteristics of a fluid." This explains why people get buried under avalanches and not run over. As the avalanche gains momentum, it has more power to do harm.

If David had made one different decision - and keep in mind it wasn't an especially spiritual decision, but only to do his job - he would have avoided the whole situation. It helps me realize why we're told in Colossians 3:23 to do our work as if we were working for God.

Monday, March 1, 2010

For the sake of it...

I said a few weeks ago that I was learning to appreciate running and that I'm not yet loving running, though I am loving the effects of it. True enough, as I see the subtle changes in my body, mood, and attitude I am happy to be running. I even love the opportunity to be alone for a few minutes, with nothing scheduled - just me and the road I'm walking on. But it all boils down to one simple fact: I still don't like running.

Last night I had a thought: is my faith the same? Do I love Christ or just the results of loving Christ? It almost hurt to be so honest with myself. Could it be possible that after all these years I just love the effects of my faith? Please accept these next few thoughts in the manner in which they were intended...

***Do I follow Christ because it makes me a "better" person? (Not better than anyone else, but better than the sinful me.)

***Do I follow Christ because it gets me into heaven?

***Do I follow Christ because it protects me from the dangers of the world? (Won't ever make a stupid drunken decision because I don't drink. Won't ever get an STD because I'm in a faithful marriage. Etc.)

These are just a few of the results that I considered. Or, and I hope, do I love Christ for who He is? Do I love Christ just for the sake of loving Christ? I can tell you honestly - If running didn't help me become the person I want to be, I would not run. God forgive me if I ever feel the same way about Him.