Spirit Boost

There are soccer moms. And hockey dads. And then there are the “Spirit Boosters.”

That’s right.

It’s what you become when you have three daughters who prefer pom poms to push-ups.

Chris once had a red nylon polo shirt with that very title embroidered in black. Because real men can handle wearing that kind of shirt. (He wore it once.)

This past week we both took the day off to go “boost some spirit” at the WY State Spirit Competition in Casper. Rachel and her boyfriend Alex also joined us as we cheered for the cheerleaders.

This was Alex’s first “spirit” rodeo, so Rachel explained the terminology–things like “basket tosses,” “libs,” and “full outs.” We yelled for our favorite little cheerleader and Rachel’s former team as they competed in three events:  Non-Stunt, All-Girl Stunt, and Coed Stunt. Alex was a good sport, and seemed genuinely interested in the performances. (Score a parent point for him!)

After the competition, we all commented on the athleticism of a couple of the other teams’ male cheerleaders. They each held a petite female cheerleader high above their heads–with one hand.

It was sheer strength. Combined with total trust.

Cheer Base

I saw this quote on a cheer t-shirt a few years ago:

Any man can hold her hand. But it takes an elite to hold her feet.”

Indeed.

I can still picture those burly boys at the state competition, gripping two small feet with one large hand, while the cheerleader above them just smiled and waved at the crowd. They made it look so easy.

And what about the “flyer,” as the girl in the air is called? How long did it take her to develop that kind of confidence in her “base?” How many times did they practice that lift before she could set aside her fear? And do it with a smile on her face?

All of this reminded me of the verse our Bible study group focused on a few weeks ago, where the Lord says:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

As we studied this verse I was struck by the fact that it begins with two commands, each followed by two promises:

Don’t be afraid…for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged (or “anxiously look about you,” NAS)…for I am your God.

The promises support the commands. Instead of being anxious and afraid, the Lord wants us to remember that He is Godour God…our God-with-us.

And as if that were not enough assurance, He goes on to make three more empowering promises:

I will strengthen you.

I will help you.

I will hold you up.

I love the way Pastor John Piper explains it:

…when God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), he does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.”

His promises are the basis for our confidence. They teach us to trust Him. Our fears begin to settle down. We learn to relax in His strong grip.

He’s got us.

We can have faith to fly, because the Almighty God is underneath us. He lifts us up with His victorious right hand. He could do it with the little pinkie on His right hand if He wanted to.

We will not fall.

Listen to what the Lord says to you through “The Message” translation of this verse:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you. Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

So, chin up. He won’t let you down.

Hold your head high. He’s holding onto you.

Put your total trust in His sheer strength! He will carry you through!

Let His promises cheer your heart and lift your spirits today!

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When I Am Weak

The Christian life is filled with paradoxes.  Our former pastor Rick Mann used to call these apparent contradictions:  “Upside Down Kingdom Principles.”  They are those spiritual truths that are the opposite of what you might naturally think.  Teachings that make you do a double take.  Things like:  “The first shall be last.” or “To save your life you must lose it.”  Or the one I’ve been pondering recently:

“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

I must admit I’m somewhat embarrassed by my weaknesses.  I’d prefer to hide them, ignore them, deny them.  I don’t understand how weaknesses could possibly be a means of strength.  The way I see it, when I am weak, then I am…weak.

Apparently the apostle Paul felt the same way.  But after having a few heart-to-heart chats with the Lord (three, to be exact) concerning his weakness, Paul did a total turn around.  He now saw his situation in a completely different light.  And an “Upside Down Kingdom Principle” was born:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV)

I wanted to try and get this principle right side up in my brain.  Because I honestly didn’t get it.  So I prayed for understanding.  I studied and meditated upon this passage.  I liked the way “The Message” translated the first part of verse 9:

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

I’m a big fan of grace.  It appears that weakness, like a magnet, attracts it.  Maybe our weakness really is a blessing in disguise, if it invites grace and shows off God’s strength.  Perhaps this is why Paul could not only endure, but could also exult in his weaknesses:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NIV)

I discovered that the Greek word for “rest on” is episkenoo, which means “to fix a tent or habitation on.”* The Pulpit Commentary explained that a literal translation would be “to tabernacle over.”

This immediately brought to mind the image of the tabernacle, the tent where God’s presence dwelt during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings.  Robertson’s Word Pictures seemed to agree with this imagery, describing Paul like this:

…as if the Shechinah of the Lord was overshadowing him.”

I’ve heard the word “Shechinah” tossed around here and there, but never really knew what it meant or where the term originated.  Curious, I googled it:

Shechinah:  An extra-biblical expression coined by the Jewish rabbis from a form of a Hebrew word that literally means “he caused to dwell.”**

It was all starting to come together!  I could now see how Paul was able to “glory” in his weaknesses:  Because they revealed GOD’s glory!  God comes and dwells right there.  His grace meets us in our places of weakness, embarrassment, and struggle.  We can rest in the Power that rests on us.  Rather than minimizing Paul’s effectiveness in ministry, his weaknesses were paradoxically the very things magnifying the “Shechinah” glory of God in and through him!

This summer these ceramic lanterns kept catching my eye.  I’d notice them on TV or in the Home and Garden section of a store.  They are rather plain and ordinary, but quite stunning when they’re all lit up.  The openings are where the light gets out.

We are like these lanterns.  We’re nothing fancy, but we have the light of Christ in us.  Our weaknesses are the holes, the cracks that let the Glory out!

If, along with Paul, our life’s goal is to glorify Him, then this begins to make sense:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  (2 Corinthians 12:10a, NIV)

We can say, “Yes, Lord.”  Yes to weaknesses, challenges, and difficulties.  Yes to gaps, flaws, and cracks.  Yes to plain and ordinary.  If they invite Your grace, if they reveal Your strength, if they manifest Your glory, then we too can delight in saying YES!

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

YES!  I am weak, but HE is strong!

Lord, let YOUR glory shine!

 

*The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon

**Source: www.gotquestions.org

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