Running On Empty

It is hard to believe, but just four Saturdays remain until the running of the Park-to-Park Half-Marathon.  We (me and the other runners) will be running 13.1 from Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro to Stuarts Draft Park in Stuarts Draft, VA.  There is some residential running at both the beginning and end of the run, but the for the most part, this race is run in the beautiful countryside of Augusta County.  It is relatively flat and yet has some tricky rolling hills to negotiate throughout the course.  Today was suppose to be another trial run.  The last time I ran 13 miles was over a month ago – before I injured my ankle.  Three weeks ago, I ran 8 miles and last week in the rain I ran 10.  We served brunch at the Valley Mission this morning, which means I didn’t get out till the afternoon.  By the time I got out, the sun was shining and the temp was pushing 70.  This is getting into my uncomfortable running temperatures.  Still, I was fully fueled – so I thought, so I took off from the church, determined to run the full route.  It didn’t take too long to realize that all was not well.  The first three miles were real good and just under my goal pace, then I turned onto Bells Lane.  This little stretch of road is well liked by local runners and walkers. I know why, but I am not a fan, especially of the hills on this just over 1 mile stretch of road.  I was really glad to get back to US11, even though I would now have to deal with traffic again.  Mile 5 and 6 were ok, but I was getting tired quickly – the sun was really taking a toll on me.  I reached my refueling point (downed a small bottle of Gatorade) and then it fell apart.  Nothing felt good, by the time I reached my seven, I was flailing around – my form (which has improved a great deal – fell apart.) I was not running the way I should, even though now I was over the half-way point.  My legs had no juice in them – they were dead.  I was breathing hard and yet not moving fast.  I ran this way for a few blocks (I was downtown now) hoping something would change – My stomach was cramping – This was not going to end well. 7.3 miles into the run, I called it quits.

This was the second time this spring (the first was when I fell a few weeks back) that I called off a run short of my goal.  I can only think of two other times and those were a long time ago.  One time was when I was still just running in the park.  The other was just after I had started running on the sidewalks of Staunton. It’s hard to know why runs fall apart.  I’m quite an avid reader of Runner’s World.  None of the typical reasons (as far as I know) factored into today’s short run.  I don’t know if I wasn’t rested enough or if the fact that I had been on my feet for three hours this morning or if the difference in the weather (sunny and 70) were the reason or any combination of the above or even what I ate this morning.

The whole point of this, is that sometimes you have to know your limits.  What good would it have been to run the full 13 miles, if I would have ended up injuring myself – I could have jeopardized the race in four weeks.  I plan on taking it easy this week – I’m planning two one hour easy runs and a 4 mile, easy run. I need to reign in the pace so that I can go long on Saturday, which will be an early morning run – the temps should be much cooler and I won’t have stuff in my stomach (I prefer running on less than more food.)

With all of that said — I am Pressing On!

Liturgy of the Passion

Liturgy of the Passion (April 1, 2012)

Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
    so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
    and opens my understanding to his will.
The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
    and I have listened.
    I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
    from mockery and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
    determined to do his will.
    And I know that I will not be put to shame.
He who gives me justice is near.
    Who will dare to bring charges against me now?
Where are my accusers?
    Let them appear!
See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!
    Who will declare me guilty?

On Sunday, we begin Seven Days in Jerusalem. As I noted last night, Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  This week we focus on the saving work of Jesus.  This passage reminds us of the things that Christ had to suffer for our benefit.  Join me for these special devotionals starting Monday as we begin – Seven Days in Jerusalem.

Liturgy of the Palms

Liturgy of the Palms (April 1, 2012)

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Mark 11:1-11

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Let all Israel repeat:
    “His faithful love endures forever.”

19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
    and I will go in and thank the Lord.
20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
    and the godly enter there.
21 I thank you for answering my prayer
    and giving me victory!

22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
    We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Please, Lord, please save us.
    Please, Lord, please give us success.
26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God, shining upon us.
    Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you!
    You are my God, and I will exalt you!

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Currently during our Sunday School time we are studying Faith Lessons.  Pam wrote several posts at Christmas about this.  Several weeks ago, we looked at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  It turns out that the events recorded in the Gospels really weren’t that out of the ordinary.  The Jewish people had been looking for a savior, who would come out of the east riding on a donkey, especially during the period of Passover.  Jesus met many of the criteria for this savior.  This had happened several times over the previous 100 year, so much so that the Romans had extra guards stationed at the garrison in Jerusalem.

Two things that I learned were 1.) Hosanna isn’t so much a cry of praise but a cry for deliverance – it means help us or save us. The Jewish people were looking for deliverance from the Romans.  No wonder the Pharisees were skiddish. These words of “hosanna” and “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” were cries of rebellion.  It also explains their pleas for Jesus to hush his disciples.  If the Romans got word of this “rebellion,” who knows what would happen.  2.) the palms      weren’t so much a symbol of peace or of Jesus’ coming kingdom as they were a nationalistic symbol (again it had a subversive element.) All of this made the Pharisees nervous.

It really puts Palm Sunday into a new light.  No wonder the Pharisees picked up the pace during Holy Week to get rid of Jesus.  During the coming week, we will continue to look at the Old Testament passages and how they apply to the events of the coming week.

What About the Goats?

I have been taking the children on a journey though the last week of Jesus’ life. One of the stories I was thinking about teaching them was the Sheep and The Goats which is found in Matthew 25.

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I have taught this story before on Wednesday nights but there were only two children in the class. We only focused on the sheep on that Wednesday night and I wanted to look at the goats this time. I started to think and research the Bible because as a pastor I have to look at all of the scriptures to see what other passage say about the subject. I also read some other books and several commentaries on this passage.  Most of these sources told me that the goats were the unsaved.  When you look at the Bible, there are other passages that could serve as a warning to Christians.  There is a possibility that the goats are those who don’t live out their Christian life as Christ has commanded.

In James, we hear these words.   14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

James points out that if we believe in God and do not do good deeds our faith is dead. He brings up a good point that the demon believe in Jesus but they are not saved. Now I am not saying that works will get us in Heaven because they will not, we can read thought out Romans that it is by faith not works that we are saved.  David Platt in his book “Radical Together” says “we were saved from works to be saved to work. God has command us to take care of the needs of others.  If you read though the Bible you will see that taking care of those who are in need is very important to God. When you read James 2:14-46, James is telling us that doing good deeds is a sign of a healthy Christian life.  The Bible speaks of the ways we can tell if our Christian life is healthy. In Galatians 5:22 and 23 we have the fruits of the Spirit.

”But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

One of the ways we show the fruits of the Spirit in our lives is to take care of others – love, joy, kindness, gentleness are all needed when we take care of others.  If we don’t have the spiritual fruit in our life, we will not have the passion to take care of others and if that passion isn’t there, it could be that your faith is dead.


Worship Defined

Jean-Jacques von Allmen

Worship sums up and confirms ever afresh the process of saving history which has reached its culminating point in the intervention of Christ in human history, and through this summing up and ever-repeated confirmation Christ pursues His saving work by the operation of the Holy Spirit.

Idolatry and Contemporary Christians

Idolatry is the most discussed problem in the Bible and one of the most powerful spiritual and intellectual concepts in the believer’s arsenal. Yet for Christians today it is one of the least meaningful notions and is surrounded with ironies. Perhaps this is why many evangelicals are ignorant of the idols in their lives…Contemporary evangelicals are little better at recognizing and resisting idols than modern secular people are…There can be no believing communities without an unswerving eye to the detection and destruction of idols.”

-Os Guiness and John Seel, No God But God

Sunday Night Thoughts

It has been a pretty amazing weekend, which topped of a pretty amazing week.  As I sit here, I can hear the rain falling outside.  We have had quite a bit of rain over the weekend.  It started not to long before I got out of work at Chick-Fil-A on Friday and it’s been raining off and on (more on than off) since then.  We have had a real summer preview (as most of the country has) over the past week.  It does look like the temps will return to a more normal March temps – there is a freeze warning for Monday overnight into Tuesday.

So like I said, this has been an amazing weekend.  I’ll try not to bore you with too many details.  On Thursday evening, I heard some strange noises coming from our refrigerator and Friday evening before supper, Pam tried to get ice, well, no ice would come out, but if I played with the door on the ice dispenser, it would work temporarily.  After dinner, I pulled apart the ice dispenser and found a little plastic part had broken off.  I was unsuccessful in finding any super glue around here so we went to the General Dollar to pick some up.  We came back and I attempted to put it all back together.  After several tries and almost gluing my fingers together several times, I was able to get it all back together.  I would say I “fixed” it, but I simply put it back together, because the ice dispenser does not work and I don’t want to try it for fear that it will break again.  What is amazing in this whole process is that I thought, I would simply order a new part.  I would gladly have paid $50 for a new dispenser housing and replaced it, but NO, turns out you can’t buy that part – you have to replace the whole door! Warning! <Rant> AMAZING! In order to replace a plastic housing you have to replace the whole freezer door???? </Rant> Sorry, that just really isn’t right on a two year old appliance.  I let the customer service agent know (very nicely and politely) that it wasn’t right.  I’ve been having a lot of issues with customer service lately and not only with the seller of our refrigerator.  I’ve been having an issue with one of the church laptops as well (and trying to be nice about the situation.)

Anyway, time to move on.  Speaking of rain — I did something new on Saturday morning – it actually was quite pleasant.  If you are a runner and have run in the rain, you know what I mean.  If you are not a runner, then you just think us runners are crazy.  But I was scheduled (by my training plan) to run an 1-1/2 hours or 10 miles (whichever was shorter) yesterday.  I was not about to let the rain beat me. So I got out and ran in the rain for 9.94 miles.  It was a great pace (a 9:07/mile.) Which means in the last three months, I have run in a wind chill of 12, 30 mile per hour + gusts and an hour and a half in the rain.  I stopped in briefly by the church and got several puzzled looks and I said I just had to do it.  Running really gets in your blood and there are times I just have to get out and run – no matter what – rain, snow, wind, cold, or heat.  It’s funny how I have progressed – a year ago I would have just let the run go and chalked it up to a rainy day.

In other running news, our church is working on a Pew 2 5K running program.  Since that was for new runners, we cancelled that today.  We will try again next week.  I’m excited to help others along on a new adventure.

All of that leads up to today’s incredible day.  Today we celebrated missions at our church.  It was one of those Sundays when everything up to the time of service seemed to go wrong – it seemed that every obstacle that could distract me from worship was there.  I sat on one of the front rows of the sanctuary and asked the Holy Spirit to work.  As the service began, you could just feel the Holy Spirit descending and He began raining down on our service.  The Holy Spirit lined up every element of the service from the Call to Worship, to the music, to the prayers, to the message, even the closing song…all without consultation amongst the participant – it was a Holy Spirit thing and there was a tremendous response at the altar.  Thanks to Dave Tolan – a Global Partner’s missionary, assigned to Southern Wesleyan University.  Thank you for sharing your heart and what God shared with you.  I love his message that I can remember at 9:30 on a Sunday evening – Get In, Get Beside, Get Behind, Get Out.  The most memorable line was “The unreached with remain unreached until they have names.”  Following the service we went out to dinner with our missions team and had some great fellowship.  By the way the meatloaf at Mrs. Rowe’s is AWESOME!

I got a short nap in this afternoon and returned to church for choir practice.  We had a great rehearsal.  I am so proud of our choir and look forward to hearing them present this worship musical called “Near the Cross.”  There was even a sweet Holy Spirit presence during rehearsal.

One of the best parts of the weekend was talking to our daughter, Rebecca following choir practice.  I love the fact that technology exists that we can use laptops and the internet to see our loved ones and talk to them.  It was good – it’s been a good week — It’s been a great weekend and I am looking forward to an even greater week.

Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

Sunday, March 25, 2012
Fifth Sunday In Lent

Welcome and Invocation

Call to Worship and Invocation

Songs of Worship

Sing to the King

Jesus Messiah

Before the Throne of God Above

Worship Through Prayer

Songs of Worship

Song for the Nations

I Will Follow

Worship Through Giving

Special Music

Worship Through God’s Word

Song of Commitment

Go, Light Your World


She Will Give Birth to a Son…

Annunciation of the Lord (March 25, 2012)

Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 45; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation, ca. 1644 by Philippe de Champaigne

10 Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”

12 But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

This seems like a strange passage, considering that we are currently in the heart of the season of Lent.  However, since the church year is built around the narrative of Jesus, another of this week’s scriptures deals with the angel coming to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.  Verse 14 is a familiar text in relation to the Christmas story.  Today we are reminded how the New Covenant began.  It began with the angel coming to Mary to announce Immanuel — God with us.