Running Update

August Running

What you see above is a thing of beauty – at least to me.  I have been using Map My Run for several years now, even to the point of going back manually and putting in all my runs and walks.  While this month started off slow – on my first run of the month I got a bee sting and the walk on the next day was short – I have been pushing to get back to a very regular routine.  81 miles is a top three month for 2016 and I have ten days left in the month.  Barring injuries this should be a record month for 2016.  I’d like to get a few more months in like this before it gets cold.  At my current average, I am on track for 855 miles.  If I can bump up that average, I would like to get in 1,000 miles this year.  It will take some work, but I think it is doable.  Very slowly my runs are getting faster.  This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had two four run weeks back to back. Along with several back-to-back day runs and my body is feeling stronger.  Currently I am working on getting my pace back down under a nine minute mile.  One run this week was at a 9:25 pace.  Today’s run was a 9.3 miler – the longest since June of 2015 and considering the distance it was a fast 10:05 pace.  This is the first time I have felt confident about running in a long time.  Even though the end of the 9 miles was tough – I am looking forward to going out even further next week.  I continue to press on!

An Unshakable Kingdom

simonopetra_rockFourteenth Sunday After Pentecost (August 21, 2016)

Hebrews 12:18-29 | New Living Translation (NLT)

You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”

No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.

An Unshakable Kingdom

We continue in Hebrews this week, picking up just a few verses from where we left off last week.  For most of the book, the author of Hebrews has been laying down an argument of how Jesus is superior to everything else – especially the Old Covenant.  He has reminded the Hebrews (to which the book was originally written) and us that the New Covenant is much superior because it is once and for all – it transcends time – Jesus sacrifice was for all and for all time – and it only took one sacrifice.  I love reading from Hebrews when we receive communion.

This week’s passage takes us to a figurative mountain.  In the passage above, the author writes, “You have not come to a physical mountain.” The original Greek is more like “to something that can be touched.” One of the “disadvantages,” if you can call it that, is that the Kingdom that we are working for is an invisible kingdom.

It was interesting, just before I starting writing this, I got robo-called by a political campaign.  I don’t know why I was selected.  But sometimes we do get God’s kingdom mixed up with our kingdom.

The writer of Hebrews says that we are not standing in front of a physical mountain and experiencing all the things the Hebrews did at Mount Sinai, but we are standing at Mount Zion – the city of God.  We have come to God himself – those of us whose names are written.  We have come to the righteous judge.  We have come to Jesus – the mediator of the New Covenant.  The New Covenant is speaking of forgiveness.

We are reminded to be careful to listen, because when the people of Israel refused to listen, God had to send a messenger.  What happens, he says, if we refuse to listen to the One who is speaking directly from heaven?  That is a scary thought.  We are reminded that when God spoke from heaven at Mount Sinai the earth shook.  We have several instances recorded in God’s Word of things shaking when God spoke.  As the writer continues, we are reminded that God will speak again – separating the shakable from the unshakable.  Only what is of God’s Kingdom will remain.

What is our response to this?  Let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe!  We don’t talk about that much anymore.  It’s not popular to talk about reverence – but isn’t that what holy fear and awe is?

Several years ago, while visiting our kids in Canada, we had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame in Ottawa.  It is a magnificent cathedral.  Just walking into the place you want to be quiet – you want to be reverent.  I know there have been times when I have been leading musical worship – and that holy fear and awe has come over me – and I don’t want to talk – because God is there in a very tangible way.  I love those times and yet they are scary – those thin places when it seems that we can almost reach out and touch heaven – the true unshakable Kingdom.

For those who have been covered by the blood of Jesus – to those who have received the cleansing of Jesus – to those who have received the forgiveness of Jesus – to those who stand at the foot of Mount Zion – we are – we are – we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable.

In closing, I’ve included Sandi Patty’s “Unshakeable Kingdom.”  While this is not my usual style of music, I thought it worked for this.  We are receiving a Kingdom.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday Night Thoughts

This week Sunday Night Thoughts is back after a week vacation.  We were away from internet access for most of our vacation except for a couple of trips to fast food restaurants.  So we didn’t post much.  Currently Pam has quite a few pictures from our trip up on Facebook.

It’ has been a crazy two weeks – with a funeral and a wedding and a long road trip.  Our family made a landmark trip to the Midwest.  For Pam, James, and Anna this marked the first time across the Mississippi River.  For me this was the first time across the Mississippi on land.  I had been across the Mighty Mississip by plane.  As part of the trip we even were treated to a Mississippi River Dinner Boat Cruise.  We got to visit some good friends and visited the Rock Island Arsenal.  We had a great time and made plans for our Veterans Day Weekend Celebration.  While in Rock Island, we also went to Heritage Church – one of our Wesleyan Churches and we also went to the John Deere Experience.  Rock Island is the home of John Deere.

Before our visit to Illinois, we went to the wedding of a friend’s daughter.  It was a bit of a FLAME staff reunion.  On our way back from Illinois, we were beginning to think the state tree or flower of Illinois and Indiana was orange construction signs.  It has been a long time since we had a summer roadtrip with construction like that.  When we got to Cleveland, we experienced a crazy summer downpour – the likes I haven’t seen in a long time.  Two of the food highlights of the trip were going to two regular places that we haven’t seen in three weeks – Sheetz and Chick-fil-A.  Other than that, we had a good deal of great homemade food.

Much of the week before vacation was doing the work of the ministry – ministering to the family.  When we got back we spent time getting ready for this weekend – and we had great service today.  I preached from Acts 2:42-48 and asked the question The Church: Why Do We Exist? I am excited about what God is doing at McCrae Brook and look forward to the future.  That’s about all for this week…see you next week.

Prayer for the Week

Prayer_Banner_22-760x176Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of this redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Running Update


I am feeling really encouraged about my running. Since Saturday a week ago, I have run in 4 different states (Indiana, Illinois (2x), Pennsylvania and New York.) Although most of my runs are now bi-state runs as I run from home in PA to Portville, NY.  Two weeks in a row now I have had 23 miles for a monthly total of 46 miles and we are only halfway.  If all goes well, I should be able to get in 100 miles this month.  Interesting to note that my runs in PA/NY were flatter than the runs in Illinois – that surprised me.  It has been warm and humid.  My runs are not fast, but slowly, I seem to be gaining in speed.  Several runs of late have been under a 10 minute mile pace.  I would like to get back under a 9:30/mile pace and then onto 9:00/miles.  Each day I go out, I feel stronger.  Looking forward to going out tomorrow morning.  I had two sets of back-to-back runs because of travel.  This week I should only have one, with a long run (8+ miles or longer.) on Saturday.  That’s about it for now.  Pressing On!

By Faith…Keep Running the Race

running-the-raceThirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 15 (20) (August 14, 2016)

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 | New Living Translation (NLT)

It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.

It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

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.Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Keep Running the Race

This week we pick right up where we left off last week – in the book of Hebrews – the 11th chapter – often called the “Faith Hall of Fame.” The writer now recounts the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea by faith and defeating Jericho simply by marching around its walls.  He recalls Rahab who was saved by faith for protecting the Hebrews.  He presses on to recount other heroes of the faith, Gidon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, Dave, Samuel, and the prophets.

Listen to what they did – by faith:

  • They overthrew kingdoms
  • ruled with justice
  • received by God had promised
  • shut the mouth of lions
  • quenched the flames of fire
  • escaped death by the sword
  • weakness was turned to strength
  • became strong in battle
  • put armies to flight
  • women received loved ones back from the dead

And yet then the author turns a corner.  It is easy to press on by faith when we think God is on our side and all these great things happened.  But what happens when we still live by faith and yet:

  • others were tortured for refusing to turn from God
  • they were jeered at
  • their backs were cut open
  • they were chained in prisons
  • some died by stoning
  • some were sawed in half
  • some were killed by the sword
  • some were destitute and oppressed
  • they hid in caves, wandered in deserts and hid in holes in the ground

These people earned a good reputation our author tells us – because of their faith in God – despite the circumstances.  It is easy to say that we will follow God when the going is easy – when it seems like God is on our side, but what about when it seems like God is distant – when it seems like God is not on our side – it is in those times that we still need to have faith — we still need to press on in the life of faith – we need to continue running the race with faith because until we cross from this life to the next, we don’t receive our ultimate reward.

These that are listed in the Faith Hall of Fame are witnesses to the promise of Jesus – this Jesus who came to earth to be God with us – Emmanuel (God in the flesh) — this Jesus who died for our sins – to pay the price for our sins – this Jesus who rose again – to free us from the curse and bondage of sin.  Jesus did these things — once and for all.  Meaning his sacrifice was good for all time for all people and it only happened one time, unlike the constant sacrifice of animals in the temple.

This faith in Jesus – surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses

It’s been interesting to watch the Olympics this week.  This morning we watched as the 10,000 meter race was run (6.2 miles) – 25 laps around the track.  It became quite clear – even early on that the Olympic record and world record was in danger of falling and by quite a large margin in running terms.  As the lead runner began to press toward the final lap, the crowd rose to their feet and began cheering loudly.

What a great way to envision Hebrews 12:1-2 – Imagine all those who have gone on before cheering us on – knowing what it means to live the life of faith – cheering us on to the finish.

When we remember those who have gone on before, we know we need to get rid of those things that slow us down. As a runner, I like to run in as little as possible – the weather usually plays a role in that.  But when we put too much on, it slows us down – that’s why I prefer shorter shorts – not short shorts, but shorter shorts than basketball shorts. Obviously, in the winter I need to put more on to stave off the cold, but in the summer, I like to keep cool when running and the less the better and the better the times.  It even includes the extra weight that we put on.  I know at the moment I am at least 10 to 15 pounds heavier than I would like to run at a decent pace.  I’m hoping my more rigorous training runs of late are going to help that.

In the Christian life, we need to do the same thing, stripping off the sin that easily entangles us – it slows us down.  On Tuesday, my run took me through a heavy undergrowth – it was stupid on my part – the place was filled with spider webs – yuck.  I kept pressing on, but it wasn’t easy.  Sin can do the same thing in our lives.

We need to do that so we can run the race with endurance – who needs extra weight in a long race?  How do we do this?  We fix our eyes on Jesus – Jesus is our great high priest – he knows what we are going through – he knows how to help us.  He initiates and completes our faith.  One version says that Jesus is the perfector of our faith – Jesus helps us mature as believers – Jesus endured the cross for us – he endured the shame – so that we could live lives of faith.  That gives him the joy that he needed to do what he did for us.

Live the life of faith – run the race – keep pressing on – through the cloud of witnesses – it is worth it!

Prayer for the Week

Prayer_Banner_22-760x176Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

By Faith


Proper 14 (19) (August 7, 2016)

Hebrews 11:1-3 | New Living Translation (NLT)

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Hebrews 11:8-16 | New Living Translation (NLT)

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By Faith

This week we jump to Hebrews 11.  We often think of Hebrews 11 as the Faith Hall of Fame.  This letter was written to the Jewish people by an unnamed Jewish writer.  Here the writer describes what faith is…it is the reality of what we hope for…it is the evidence of of things we cannot see.

The writer goes on to say that by faith we believe the universe was formed by God’s command.  God simply spoke it into being and it happened.   God created what we see…God created it out of nothing.  Yes, it does take faith to believe that.  You may have noticed that our blog has been quiet this week.  That’s because on Sunday morning a man in our church died – and we have been busy ministering to the family.  One of the things that we knew – even before he died was that he was a believer – he had a faith in God.  It was refreshing to preach at a funeral where we knew the person was a believer in God.  Each one of us who believe in God have a faith that this story is true…Over the next couple verses the writer recalls how each person in the hall of fame believed by faith and did great things for God because of faith.

In verse 8, we are introduced to Abraham, who left his homeland – who left his family to go to the land of God’s promise.  Abraham followed God to receive God’s inheritance.  It seems weird, but he left not knowing where he was going.  Each one was looking for God’s promised inheritance.  We are told that even though Abraham didn’t know where he was going, he was confident – looking forward to a city with eternal foundations…even Sarah – Abraham’s wife – believed God’s promise.  The Hebrew people were born from this promise.  And yet, not one – the writer says – lived to receive the promise – but they did see it from the distance and so they pursued it.  They knew that they were aliens and strangers – just passing through.  They knew God was promising them something better.

For us believers – the promise remains – we still live a life of faith – we know what is promised and we have faith in the promise of an eternal city.  We look forward to that day when we enter into God’s promised rest.

By faith!