Negative Splits

In Other Words: Finishing Strong

One of the lessons that I have learned while running, especially over the last year and mainly in the last couple months is the concept of “negative splits.” Even though I have been running for three years and have heard the term, I never thought that concept was possible.

A negative split means that you run the second half of a race faster than the first half.  In doing so, you reserve your energy stores and have something left for the end of the race.

Here’s what I would do: I would go out as fast as I could from the start and by the time I was finished, I would be dragging along.  This past spring while training for the Park to Park 1/2 Marathon, I realized that by the time I got to 8 miles, I had gone out too fast and was spent – there was no way that I was going to finish a 13 mile run.

Training for the Danville 1/2 Marathon has been different – especially on those days that I go out for a long, slow distance run.  During this training time, my goal is always to stay over a nine minute mile – no faster – at least until I hit the 4 and 5 mile mark.  Usually I stay at the pace till about mile 8 and then I try to start picking up the pace.  It has worked really well, especially over the last few weeks.  One week I even ended up running a 8 minute mile during the last two miles!  I finished strong.

It reminds me of how we are to live this life as believers.  So many start their Christian life – so strong – so full of energy…but as life proceeds, they lose their way…they lose their energy…they lose their passion for God…and they slow down.  It is important in this life that we press on toward the goal…the goal of the Kingdom…the prize which calls us heavenward.  I challenge you – if you are caught in a trap of losing your passion for God…I encourage you to press on – fix your eyes on Jesus – the eternal prize and finish strong!  Pressing On! 

A Call to Rediscover

Evangelicals should turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect that assert the self as the source of worship.  Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God’s cosmic redemption.  Therefore, we call evangelicals to recover the historic substance of worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God’s saving acts.  

Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals (Downers Grove, IL; InterVarsity Press, 2008), 121

Inspiration Comes Through the Struggle

‎”You are pursuing the wrong dream if you only find fulfillment when the dream is accomplished. You can know you are on the path to a God given dream if you love the process, if you love the gritty hard work, the painful experience, the part that requires blood, sweat and tears. If that part fulfills you, your’re pursuing the right dream. Your inspiration comes through the struggle.”

Erwin McManus

Sunday Night Thoughts

  • It has been a great weekend and I am looking forward to a great week.
  • Part of what makes this week so good is that by the end of it, we will have seen both of our daughters (Anna is home on Fall Break from SWU, we picked her up from the train station on Thursday morning) and we will see Rebecca and Michael this weekend, when we hold a baby shower for them.  If I haven’t mentioned it yet, yes we are going to be grand parents.  We will also get to see our parents as well.
  • Yesterday our teens serve breakfast at Valley Mission.  This is our local shelter.  They did a great job (cooking the eggs, getting everything ready.) All I did was direct traffic for the most part, although I did make the sausage gravy and the grits.  The men cheered when they heard it was homemade sausage gravy.  I don’t think they get homemade very often.  This was the first time I ever made grits and it took a while to figure out the right mixture of water, salt and grits, but I got it right (using my taste buds and a lot of butter.) I had a great time with our teens.
  • Usually I start off this post talking about the weather – well, fall is on its way.  The leaves have begun to change here in the Shenandoah Valley and soon they will be raking leaves in the park.  I did cut the grass on Friday night.  It will be interesting to see how much longer I will need to be doing that.  My guess would be at least one more, especially since it keeps raining.  It’s suppose to be a cool morning tomorrow. It will be my first real cool-weather run of the season
  • I’m looking at 13 miles tomorrow morning, there won’t be too many more long runs before the half-marathon at the end of the month.  I really can’t believe how much running I have done lately and yet each time I go out, it feels better.
  • We had a good service at Parkway this morning.  The praise team did a great job leading in the singing and our band did well.  During rehearsal we had a couple of mixups (mostly mine.) We were learning the Hillsong “Hosanna” and I kept confusing what parts went where.
  • I am looking forward to another great week.  God is so good. In fact, this week we got great news that most of our debt from my operation was waived  or covered by insurance – so cool!  In addition several other bills were waived as well.
  • One of the things that I have discovered is a new writing place.  We now have a nice little place set up in our basement with a bed and couch.  Someone has given us a remnant carpet.  We originally called it the honeymoon suite because that’s where Michael and Rebecca stayed.  We are hoping to get some drywall up and install a bathroom down here to make a little apartment for our guests.  But for now, it is a great little place to get away, without a TV to write – if you’ve been wondering where the abundance of posts have come from lately.

Pressing On!

Sunday Set List

Ninetheenth Sunday After Pentecost
October 7, 2012

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship and Invocation

Songs of Worship

O Worship the King


Hosanna (Frasier)

Worship Through Prayers

Songs of Worship

Love Divine All Loves Excelling


Worship Through Giving

Worship Through God’s Word

Not A Fan

Following the Rules

Matthew 23:23-28

Song of Commitment

Holy Spirit Rain Down


Prayer for the Week

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Not A Fan – 3

The Cost of Following Jesus

24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

This post is a continuation of the post from last night.  We were looking at the rich, young ruler and we think that he may have had an allegiance issue – his money and possessions were a stumbling block to Jesus. Here is the Michael Card song that I referenced last night:

One of the things that we should consider is the Jewish context.  In the Jewish culture, those who were rich were considered blessed by God.  It wasn’t necessarily a good thing to be poor.  Sure, God gave provisions to feed the poor, but that wasn’t the normal state for those who were blessed by God.  Jesus turns this thinking on its head several times in the gospels.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” Then Jesus in this passage said that it would be very difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.  These are tough words – probably because riches compete with our love for God and of His son, Jesus.  Perhaps money even clouds our hearing to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus tells his disciples that everything is possible with God.  Then we get Peter’s crazy question – and to some point that is a question that some of us may ask.  There are times since I’ve been in the ministry I’ve asked this very question.  Lord, “What do I get for giving up everything to follow you?”

Jesus simple reply is that our reward is out of this world.  He doesn’t tell us we won’t get some earthly reward, but he reminds us that our reward is beyond our life on this earth.  Jesus goes on to say that those who have given up these things; houses, family, brother, sisters, property, things — for the sake of Jesus will receive an eternal reward and will inherit eternal life.  It requires a life that is willing to follow Jesus.  We are reminded by Jesus in Luke 9:23 ““If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

In Luke 14, we have these words from Jesus, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.”

These are tough words, but Jesus doesn’t just want fans – people who stand on the sideline and cheer for Him.  Jesus wants followers!  The need in our lives to live it for ourselves is sometimes so powerful.  That’s why Jesus said that we must take up our cross each and every day — each morning when we get up — we must make a conscious decision to follow Jesus – with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our soul.

What have you given up for Jesus?  Are you simply a fan?  Or are you a follower?

Lay Aside Every Weight

Today is a “Graduation Day” or perhaps it’s more like a commencement. I remember when I was younger, (not knowing the definition of commencement) I always thought that it was an ending, much like graduation is the capstone the particular level of your educational career.  I was much older when I realized that commencement means beginning.  So, today I have reached a graduation…Today is my commencement day.

Some of you may wonder what in the world I am talking about.  This morning I stepped on the scale and weighed in at 169 pounds.  What’s so important about that?  For quite some time 169 pounds has been my goal weight. Why? Because 169 pounds marks the point where my BMI (Body Mass Index) equals 25.0.  In other words, over the last three years, I have moved from being obese, to overweight, to (as of this morning) being a normal weight for my height.  It is cause for celebration.  I have looked forward to this day for a long time.

In some ways, it is still hard to believe this journey that I have been on.  Three years and a month ago, I was so overweight.  I still can’t believe when I look back at the pictures.  For the first two years, all I did was run and run and run.  About this time last year, I started watching the calories and since then the pounds have literally fallen off.  As I was running this afternoon, I thought about these words that come from the book of Hebrews, chapter 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

It’s been amazing how taking off the pounds has caused me to run easier and faster.  Last year at this time, I had just eclipsed a 10 minute mile.  Today on a really good day, I can come close to an 8 minute mile.  And so it is with the Christian life as we see above.  The writer of Hebrews talks about running the race with endurance.  One of the things that I have quickly found out about myself is that I love running long.  I am not a sprinter, but I love long, endurance runs.  To run long, you have to slow down – you can’t run as fast.  The experts tell us runners that running long really builds your aerobic base.  I can always tell when my “long” runs are on the short side, because my short runs seem more difficult. This is because the body is not used to moving the air through the lungs as efficiently.

So today is my commencement day – it is a new beginning – it’s not the finish, because this I know – I don’t ever want to go back to any of those previous weights again. I don’t even want to be 180 pounds again.  That’s why I love Paul’s words in Philippians – “We press on toward the mark.”  That’s what I intend to do…Press On! 

Not a Fan – 2

I am loving this series that we are doing at Parkway.  It is a church-wide emphasis and both the adults and the teens are in small groups each week along with the Sunday morning message.  This series is both challenging and inspiring.

This past week, we asked the question, “Who or what influenced you the most in knowing what following Jesus was all about?” It was interesting to hear the answers from our students…almost all (without exception) said that their parents were the most influential in learning how to follow Jesus.  I would say that in my life, my parents were influential in that regard.  In addition, there were my friends at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Allentown, as well as our youth leader and his wife who did a great job. (I am always amazed that the great job volunteer youth leaders do.  They serve with passion and intensity and they love their teens.)  Audrey and Barry were quite influential during my high school years in shaping what I thought it meant to follow Jesus.  In addition, there was the passionate music of the era.  The Christian music wasn’t so much aimed at worship, but in teaching.  One of those artists who was greatly influential was the late Keith Green.  He challenged me what it meant to follow Jesus.

Over the course of the night, we discussed with the teens the importance of making faith their own.  While it is great to have your parents, youth leaders and friends teach you how to follow Jesus, it only really becomes part of your life when you make it your own.  I remember those formative teen years and the faith of my parents became my faith in Jesus – their influence, my youth leaders influence, and even my pastor’s influence.

Later on in the lesson we turned to the scripture (Matthew 19:16-30):

16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

This young man, who apparently has much money comes to Jesus.  He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus tells him that to do that, he must keep the commandments.

The young man replies, “Which ones?”  I find it interesting that the young man asks this question, as if he didn’t know.  We often talk about the ten commandments.  Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and the second was like it to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus goes on to list the last 5 commandments – the ones that talk about loving your neighbor.  The young man says, “I’ve kept all those, but I’m missing something.” I think Jesus knew there was a heart problem with this young man.  He knew that this young man was more attached to his possessions than he was to God.  That’s why Jesus didn’t quote any of the first four commandments.  Because all of those commandments, speak of loving God first and foremost – with all of our heart, mind, and soul.

I often have suggested that commandments 1 through 4 speak of loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and commandments 5 through 10 speak of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus when quoting the great commandment said that on this commandment hang all the law and the prophets.

The young man was disappointed with Jesus’ answer, perhaps he thought he could buy his way into the Kingdom.

This leads us to the question, “What is keeping you from following Jesus?”  Many years ago, Michael Card wrote the song, “What would it take to keep you from Jesus?”  What is the obstacle that is standing in your way of following Jesus?  Is it money or possessions.  Is it friends?  Is it power? What?  I encourage you to search your heart today.  Instead of being a fan of Jesus, which I believe this man wanted to be, be a follower — be a fully, committed follower.