Believe it or not, this question is the product of a government committee. True Story.

As I understand the history, Parliament convened the group of lay persons and clergy, known as the Westminster Assembly, to hash through the important issues of the day. Many were concerned with such things as who was boss--King or Archibishop . . . or pope, or whether anyone could boss around the local church, what prayers would be said, what hymns sung, and whether Papists floated like a witch and should therefore be burned

OK, that was a gratuitous Monty Python reference. But suffice it to say that the assembly, like England itself, trying to figure out what or who had "authority" in a time of social upheaval. Everything was subject to question. England eventually descended into Civil War and regicide with the beheading of Charles I. In the midst of it all, the assembly suffered "Mission Creep." In response to Parliament's request, the assembly created the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Westminster Larger Catechism. The title of this post is the first question in that mini-catechim.

Gee. Thanks, Westminster. We're leaping off into the abyss, everything seems in turmoil, and you couldn't have given us something easy? You couldn't give us five steps to our "Best Life Now," or a rhyming "to do" list of how to improve our marriages or make our kids behave or get wealthier because "God Rocks" and wants us to be healthy and wealthy? Modern churchy life is way more practical.

Nooooooooooo. You have to start with, "What's the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Why are we here?"

Wait a minute. Maybe they had something there. Maybe this is the place to start.

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.


**blink**

Isn't this always where we lose our way? Isn't this one thing, trying to replace God, the root of all the times I fall on my face? Every time I do the wrong thing? Even every time I do the right thing for the wrong reason? All those things I do that I should not have done and those things I omit to do that I should have done? What was it the serpent said in tempting mankind to do the one thing God said not to do? "You shall be like gods."

By putting this question first, it is as if the old timers know I need a daily reminder:

"There is a God, and you're not him."

Indeed, I am not him.

Pick up "The Book" and read the beginning. There is a description of God speaking light and energy and everything that is or ever will be into existence by breathing a word, "Let there be light." Gen. 1:3. Skip to the end and you see the implications of that power: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." Rev. 4:11. Whether you consider this a "big bang" or a literal seven day creation account, does not really matter to me. There is one thing I know: I couldn't manage to create something from nothing in either way. The one who can create something from nothing is boss. I'm not.

So, what does it mean if I'm willing to accept that I'm not the boss, in any given moment? Hard to say, but I think when I'm willing to get out of the boss' chair, I am able to make my actions an offering of thanks to the one who breathed it all into being. The race and the training or the job and the family, anything and everything can become an act of worship.

In one of my favorite lines from Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell tells his sister, Jenny, "I believe God made me for a purpose, for China. But he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure. . . . To win is to honor Him." I have only rarely made my life an act of worship like that. If I do so, it is only because I am jolted into it.

For example, the first time I did the Wildflower Long Course triathlon, I was with a large group of friends with whom I had never raced. I was worried about how I'd do, how I would look, and what they would think of me. Notice how many times "I" and "me" appear in that sentence. The result was predictable. I had a horrible swim and was struggling through the bike--until my focus came off of myself. While I was in the aero bars, I looked down at my wrist and saw the red "band of hope," the emblem of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In an instant, "woe is me," vanished, and I realized how thankful I should be. I am physically able to ride a bike. I was healthy enough to be outdoors in the sunshine. The pedaling did not get easier, and I did not win the race, but I felt "his pleasure," if only briefly.

Like The Book says, "[W]hether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Cor. 10:31. What is your act of thanksgiving and worship? Do you experience that searing in your lungs or the pain in your legs only so you can get higher, faster and stronger. Or is it an offering to the one who stitched you together, a sacrifice of praise for health and power? Of the 38,000 steps in the marathon, how many belong to you? Who are you running for?

More on this next week. Now, go run.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 5, 2008 at 6:45 AM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

8 comments

"Isn't this one thing, trying to replace God, the root of all the times I fall on my face? Every time I do the wrong thing? Even every time I do the right thing for the wrong reason? All those things I do that I should not have done and those things I omit to do that I should have done?"

Whoa....!

September 5, 2008 at 9:29 AM

For me the "reason" is all about service and connection to others.
I get goose bumps still when I connect with a child who has autism, or help one communicate more clearly.
If I wasn't helping others in some fashion, then there would be no point in me being here.

September 5, 2008 at 9:58 AM

I feel the glory of my good fortune when I race. Is that God? Don't know. I also feel very proud of myself. If pride goeth before the fall I'm in for some big trouble!

My life is somewhat of a spiritual vacuum so thanks for articulating your thoughts. I'm really enjoying reading what you have to say.

September 5, 2008 at 11:01 AM

This morning I asked God for an event free run. I asked for my health and strength. I asked for protection knowing that I was heading out by myself at 5:15 in the morning. Along the way I made sure to thank God for the beautiful weather and low humidity this morning. I gave thanks for no real injury or pain after rolling my foot on a rock or a root along Memorial Dr. I gave thanks for feeling good even though I had a few intestinal twinges here and there. I gave thanks for making this morning's run far better than the miserable run that I had on Monday.

September 6, 2008 at 11:52 AM

I don't think I'm ever boss. I'm not sure Bobby or Ally thinks I am either!
I do feel God when I race. And when I train. And even though I have some faulty parts now I am still thankful for them and I'm glad they still work, sort of. I have found a peace and realize that whether " my" parts are not what they were, but were they ever, really?
There is a Lincoln Brewster song that says, "today is the day You have made I will rejoice and be glad in it."
And so I try. I think Phil 4:4-7? (and im paraphrasing because i dont have a bible in front of me)says to rejoice in
the Lord always. again I say rejoice. Always reveal your gentle spirit to others because the lord is near. Bring all your requests to God, with thanksgiving, prayer and supplication, because He hears you. And the grace of God, which (and this is important) is beyond our comprehension, will lead your hearts and minds to Christ Jesus.
That's sort of what coach liz said, too.

September 6, 2008 at 5:21 PM

I don't think I'm ever boss. I'm not sure Bobby or Ally thinks I am either!
I do feel God when I race. And when I train. And even though I have some faulty parts now I am still thankful for them and I'm glad they still work, sort of. I have found a peace and realize that whether " my" parts are not what they were, but were they ever, really?
There is a Lincoln Brewster song that says, "today is the day You have made I will rejoice and be glad in it."
And so I try. I think Phil 4:4-7? (and im paraphrasing because i dont have a bible in front of me)says to rejoice in
the Lord always. again I say rejoice. Always reveal your gentle spirit to others because the lord is near. Bring all your requests to God, with thanksgiving, prayer and supplication, because He hears you. And the grace of God, which (and this is important) is beyond our comprehension, will lead your hearts and minds to Christ Jesus.
That's sort of what coach liz said, too.

September 6, 2008 at 5:23 PM

http://www2.theclarionnews.com/General_News/74024.shtml

I'm very interested in hearing more on this topic.. I think you hit the nail on the head. I wrote a bit about it in they article my hometown newspaper did about my training for Hawaii Ironman. I thought you might enjoy it.

September 8, 2008 at 10:54 AM

I had to think about this a bit. The main point of man, the chief end, is to enjoy God forever. I've read an author who said it this way, "God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in him" Now, does that kick it up a notch? How do I enjoy someone who is so difficult to know, let alone understand? I can grasp, "it's not about me". I struggle to "feel" enjoyment of him in the day to day of a broken world- Knowing full well the key here is in "forever" or the "here but not yet" dilemma. I'm not very patient with "not yet" Sort of a paradox I suppose that it comes back to "I am not God" and have no concept of how to run eternity-dang it.

September 9, 2008 at 9:36 PM

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