Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycling, Favors, and Affirmation

The end of May coincided with the end of the Giro d'Italia. For those who don't know, which is probably most of you, it is one of cycling's three largest stage races, taking place during most of the month of May. (The Tour de France is the largest stage race, taking place beginning July 2nd.) During the Giro, Alberto Contador, who is right now the best stage racer in the world, dominated the race, winning stages and gaining time on his opponents during many stages. He would take home the pink jersey as overall winner of the race.

Notable during this race were a couple of occasions that he didn't take the opportunity to win stages. He literally gave up the chance to win during the day (recognizing he would likely win over the totality of the race) so that he could allow another individual, either someone who had made major efforts on the day, or a former teammate of his, to take the victory on that day. Here is one of those moments, when he catches his former teammate Paolo Tiralongo and allows him to win on the day (beginning about three minutes in).

This post is not to discuss the merits of Contador (who has a shady past from a sporting perspective), or to discuss cycling in general. This post is to show the desire in humanity to acknowledge a job well done, however one may acknowledge it.

Jess and I have recently been reading through Sam Crabtree's Practicing Affirmation which indicates that affirmation of others is biblical and essential to our relationships with others and God. When we affirm others, it builds them up as individuals and affirms their status as image-bearers of God. This affirmation, though, is no mere ego-booster. It is a reward (a carrot of sorts) for those who are doing as God would have them. While Contador was merely affirming these other men as cyclists, when we as Christians affirm people, we should affirm them as image-bearers of God. Even those who are not Christians still bear the image of God (see Genesis 9:6).

The key to practicing affirmation in a godly way is to affirm the work of God in a person. For the Christian, this is easy. To borrow a tag-line through my friend Joel, it could be as simple as "Go God through Joel!" or "God is really helping you grow in patience." For the child, it looks much the same, though with an underlying recognition that the child is not yet in Christ (in most cases). For the non-Christian, this is a little bit more tricky. For someone who is open to spiritual matters, the comments could be similar to the statement "I believe God is really helping you to be more patient." For someone who is not open to such matters, or for the teachers in the public school system, it's a little more difficult.

Throughout it all, though, the recognition must be on the fact that the impetus for change is not in the individual person, but in the grace of God. As Paul so eloquently stated in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am." It is only by God's grace we are who we are, and His abundant grace in us should be affirmed for His glory. Paul is an example of consistent affirmation. Perhaps Philippians 1 is the best example of this, where Paul grounds so much of what positive things he has to say about the Philippians in the work of God in Christ. When our affirmations look like this, we honor the person (which is key and deserved), but we more importantly honor the God behind it all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Radical Together Tuesdays

"Nowhere in Scripture has God promised to bless my plans or the plans of anyone else in the church, no matter how innovative or creative they may be. Neither has God promised to bless us based solely on our motives. Sure, we are supposed to do everything for the glory of God, but that doesn't mean that everything we do for his glory is assured of his blessing.

There is only one thing that God has promised to bless, and that is his plan. He has given us his plan in his Word." David Platt, Radical Together, p. 53

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Radical Together Tuesdays

"God's design in his Word is not to provide all the practical guidelines, parenting tips, leadership advice, and financial counsel that Americans are looking for in the twenty-first century. Instead, the purpose of God's Word is to transform people in every country and every century in the image of Jesus. The Bible is sufficient to accomplish this task, and God knows this is what people need most." -David Platt, Radical Together, p. 50

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Radical Together Tuesdays

"Christians would be foolish to make radical sacrifices or take radical risks in their lives simply because someone in the church has suggested it. That's why dependence on God's Word is his design for all of us, not just leaders. As members of churches, we stake our lives - and his church - on truth from God, not thoughts from men and women. For this reason, members of churches should desire and, in a sense, demand nothing less than continual feasts on God's Word in the church. This alone will satisfy, strengthen, and spread the church in the world." -David Platt, Radical Together, p. 45

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Radical Together Tuesdays

"According to countless books and conferences, you and I need to be innovative and creative. We need an entrepreneurial spirit combined with an engaging persona. Strangely, though, none of these qualities are mentioned in the Bible as qualifications for leadership in the church. Instread, Jesus tells all of his followers that, in order to make disciples, they must be able to teach people to obey God's Word. Scripture is clear that any leader who wants to unleash the people of God in the church for the glory of God in the world must simply be competent to communicate and faithful to follow the Word of God." -David Platt, Radical Together, p. 41

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Radical Together Tuesdays

"The gospel is the key - and the only sustainable motivation - to sacrificial living. The gospel reminds us that each of us was once a child of wrath, filled with evil desires and unable to control our sinfulness. Yet God sought us and saved us. In love, he adopted us as his sons and daugthers." -David Platt, Radical Together, p. 35

Monday, May 23, 2011

Practical Theology for Women: Faith Works!

In Chapter 3 of Practical Theology for Women, Wendy Horger Alsup discusses examples of unfaithfulness and and faithfulness in scripture. She starts with unfaithfulness in the Old Testament.


The root word behind "unfaithful," "unfaithfully," and "unfaithfulness" means "falsehood," treachery," "trespass," and "broke faith." It is used in the Old Testament as a warning against unfaithfulness and to describe acts of unfaithfulness. Moses showed unfaithfulness in Meribah-kadesh when God told him to speak to the rock yet he struck the rock instead (Deuteronomy 32:15). It wasn't the act of hitting a rock that was sin, it was his obvious disobedience that was sin. There are countless instances in the Old Testament that describe God asking different acts of faith from different people. Something that might be considered an act of faithfulness in one case may be an act of unfaithfulness in another. In Moses' case, he knew the difference and chose to disobey God.

Acts of faith come from God working in us. Alsup shares that she's "talked with many women who...are afraid of the kind of personal relationship with God that might result in him requiring something special from them." So is this kind of attitude reflecting simply a lack of faith? It turns out it isn't that simple. A lack of faith isn't just a weakness, it's sin and God views it as "treachery - sin with an accompanying stab in the back."

In the New Testament we hear Christ using the phrase "you of little faith" several times. The word behind this phrase means "little faith" or "trusting too little." Alsup says "we get the idea of having little conviction of the truth of something or someone."

Faith directly affects the practical issues in our lives. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus even ties having little faith to worrying. (Matthew 6:30-31) This was demonstrated time and time again by Jesus' disciples. They witnessed him perform miracles countless times yet they seemed to forget his power when a new situation arose. But though we refer to the disciples here, can't you see yourself in their place? I can. God provides for us more times than we know, yet we worry when we're met face to face with a new trial. Why is this a problem? Alsup explains:

"The problem is not that we have never seen God provide for us before. The problem is not that he's asking us to respond in a way that is radically different from previous situations; the problem is that we forget the ways he's proven himself in the past and fret over how we are going to provide for ourselves in the new situation. Exhibiting little conviction in the truth of God's promises is especially troublesome when he's proven himself faithful so many times before."


Now that we've seen examples of unfaithfulness, let's talk about faithfulness. Alsup talks about the centurion in Matthew 9 whose servant needed healing. He asked Jesus to heal his servant but deemed himself unworthy for Jesus to come into his house. He said "...only say the word and my servant will be healed." The centurion's conviction of the truth of Christ's power was so strong that he knew when he got home his servant would be healed. Just like the examples of unfaithfulness, there are numerous examples of faithfulness in scripture like that of the centurion. Examples of people who know God is true to his word.

In each situation, one common theme sticks out: these people demonstrated their faith, or lack thereof. And that's how it still is today. We can proclaim our faith in God all day, but if nothing in our lives backs that up, our claims are null and void. Our faith is shown by our actions, not just our words.

When life gets tough, do you respond with fear and anxiety? Or does your response reflect what you know to be true about God? That while we are unfaithful, he is faithful and he will fulfill his promises.

May we live fully convicted of the truth of God and may this truth be demonstrated through his work in us.