Eight Years

number-437926_640.jpg

Today marks the day eight years ago that I started running.  I call it my running birthday.  I’ve recounted the story before.  On a warm summer afternoon in late August, I put on a pair of running shoes from Walmart. (I didn’t know any better then.) Me and the senior pastor of the church where we were on staff went out to the track at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton and I took my first tenuous steps into the world of running.

Our senior pastor had encouraged me to start running. The amazing part about that is that I was 260+ pounds at the time.  We got out on the track and ran 200 meters. Then we walked back to the finish line. We repeated that 3 more times and boy was I whipped.  It took us 20 minutes to complete a mile.  Amazingly the next day, I went out and did it by myself.  The great thing is that Barry continued to push me. He really was my accountability partner.  He would run with me about once a week during those initial 9 or 10 weeks.

One of the guys at church found out that I was running and encouraged me to sign up for a 5K.  I did and on November 9 – just two and a half months after I started – I ran a 5K.  You might be wondering, “Did you run the whole thing?” Yes. It took me 36:59. It might not seem fast, but it was wonderful and I was so proud of myself.  Eventually I lost over 90 pounds and I have gained a few back.  I’m not as fast as I once was, but I am working on that.  The last couple weeks have been encouraging.  This summer has been one of the best summers in several years for running.  I now have four 100+ mile months in a row.  The last time that happened was 2013 and I was preparing for the Richmond Marathon. In 2014, I had a stretch of three 100+ mile months with an 80 mile month and then three more 100+ mile months.

I would like to get to 1,000 miles this year. 2014 was the last time I accumulated that many miles.  In order to do that I have to average 93 miles a month to the end of the year.  I’m not too worried about September or October, but in November and December, I ran into trouble…so I really need to persevere as we get to those months.

It’s been eight years and I plan to keep pressing on!

Sunday Night Thoughts

quotes-Sunday-Night-Thought

Here we are on the last Sunday in August. This month has flown by.  On Wednesday, I started my regular van run again.  We have a two week stint and then a week off and then we go all the way to Thanksgiving.  The van run is Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I found out this week that Pam will be joining me for my afternoon run as soon as all her clearances check out.

On Saturday, we took James back to Houghton.  It sure is quiet around here.  Anna was back on the computer today after getting the summer off.  James begins his second year at Houghton.  If I recall correctly, he will be the Vice President of the class of 2020.

This week, Anna heads back for in-service days.  Olean School District starts after Labor Day.  So we have been getting ready for everyone to head back to school.

This past week, the local ministerial association served lunch to the teachers of our school district.  This is an annual event and I thought it was wonderful again this year.  Pam plans to do the little monthly gifts like last year.  The teachers were even giving her suggestions for types of chocolate.

On Thursday evening, the school district gave us drivers a dinner.  That was nice.  We had Beef on Weck, which is a local favorite.  In case you’re wondering, click the link.  I like it.

It’s been a busy first week of school and I’ve had to adjust all over again after having three weeks off.  Friday night we had a wonderful worship service at Emmaus Road.  It’s pretty amazing to have musicians who can follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

This morning’s service was another wonderful outpouring of God’s Spirit.  God again granted favor as I preached.  We had 34 for worship and we averaged 33 for August.  That is the best monthly average since we have arrived.  I preached on the subject of Gentleness.  During the sermon, I surprised a few people with an illustration, but the sermon was well received. Paul writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” I asked the question, “If gentleness was a crime, would there be enough evidence of gentleness in your life to convict you in a court of law?”  It’s a question that all of us need to ponder.

Well it’s time to wrap this up. Tomorrow I have to have the van inspected.  But I want to get in a run first.  So have a great week.  Blessings….

Running Update

jogging-2343558_640.jpg

This is the last Saturday running update for August.  I will have one more running update, because August is my running birthday, but more about that next week.  August has been a good month, despite the slow start because of our family camp and vacations, but I recovered and should be able to punch out as many miles as I did last year in August. I’m shooting for 117.  Over all for 2017 I have in 608 miles which is more than I had last year for the first 8 months.  Beating September will be a challenge because I had 150 miles.  Also today was my 100th run of the year.  Again not bad due to the slow start.

Today was one of those days, I felt sore and really didn’t think I could do a long run, after all I did do 6 miles yesterday.  At the 7 mile mark I was really regretting it, but just like last week, just beyond the 7 mile mark, it all came together.  My last full mile was at a really good pace – under a 10 minute mile pace.  The whole run was at a 10:15 pace and I was able to do 9.25 miles and now feel wonderful.  That’s about all I have for now. Like I said my running birthday is coming up next week, so I have more then.

Pressing On!

The Way to Worship…

pexels-photo-236113.jpegTwelfth Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2017)

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Exodus 1:8-2:10
    • Psalm 124
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Isaiah 51:1-6
    • Psalm 138
  • Second reading
    • Romans 12:1-8
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 16:13-20

Romans 12:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.


Just before Paul writes the words above, he writes:

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory….

Then Paul says, (my paraphrase) “Therefore, because of his mercy and grace (because of all he has done for you…give your bodies to God. Let your body be a living (as opposed to a dead) and holy (separated, consecrated) sacrifice – the kind that God wants and is acceptable.”  So I’ve already taken a few words out of this passage that I would like to highlight.

Paul tells us because of all that God has done and over the course of this letter to the Romans, Paul has told us about grace and Christ’s sacrifice and God raising him from the dead…because of this, we should – it should be a natural act – live our lives to God, not for ourselves, but for God.  I like the fact that Paul says we should be a living sacrifice.  This echoes Jesus’ words that we need to pick up our cross daily and follow.  Because of what God has done through Jesus we are made new.  We shouldn’t look like our old selves, instead we should look like Jesus.  As we give our lives over daily to follow the cross of Christ, be become more like him and this is our spiritual act of worship.

We often think that worship is the songs we sing, but it’s only a small part of worship.  We worship Christ with our very lives when we do the things that are pleasing to him.  Paul tells us that this is truly the way to worship him.  To expand that thought a little further, Paul then goes on to say, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

We struggle with that word perfect.  When we think of perfect, we think of something that has no room for improvement.  In most cases, that is not what the scriptures are getting at.  This perfect means an action – a pressing on – a maturing – a moving on toward completeness.  It means that today I am more like Christ than yesterday, and tomorrow I will be more like Christ than I am today.  In Philippians Paul writes, “Not that I have already attained it, but I press on! Paul presses on toward the goal, which is heaven.

How does Paul tell us that we are to worship?  Paul tells us to be humble as Christ was.

  • Don’t think you are better than you really are.
  • Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves
  • Measure yourself by the faith God has given you.

Paul is telling us how to relate to each other.  I think many times in the church, we think that we are all that.  Paul reminds us that we aren’t.  Paul reminds us that Christ showed humility.  The body of Christ is made up of many parts – we aren’t all like each other.  If we were all the same, some of us would be unnecessary. We are reminded that there are many parts to the body of Christ and we all belong to each other.

Sometimes we are jealous or envious of gifts that God has given to others.  Don’t be!  Paul writes, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”  I love it.  This really is the picture of the body of Christ – it is the picture of the church.  It seems there are those who are always looking for the limelight.  I don’t know about you, but as a leader, I don’t enjoy the limelight.  Yes, there is great satisfaction in being a leader, but there is also great responsibility.  Many want the great satisfaction without the responsibility.  That’s why God gifts us in certain ways.

This passage in Romans gives us just a short list of God’s gifts, but let’s take a look:

  • If you can prophesy – speak with as much faith as God has given you.
  • If you can serve – serve them well
  • If you can teach – teach well
  • If your gift is encouragement – be encouraging
  • If it is giving – give generously
  • If it is leadership – lead well – take the responsibility seriously
  • If you have the gift of kindness – do it gladly.

As we wrap this up.  These are truly the way to worship God.  We can’t worship God when we are all wrapped up in ourselves. We can only worship God when we humble ourselves – when we do all we do to the glory of God.

The last thing I want to share is in verse 9, which isn’t in today’s reading, but I think it is important and it is connected to the text:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  

This is truly the way to worship!uncat

The Burned Over District

Burned_over_district

A map of the Burned Over District.

Several years ago, when I was studying for ordination in The Wesleyan Church, I came across the term “The Burned Over District.” Now being that I was working two jobs at the time and pastoring a church in the midst of my studying for ordination, I didn’t stop to look up the term.  This was in the days before we had always on, instant internet.  I was studying in my office at church, which means I would have had to get up, go back to the house, fire up the modem and do the search.  From my reading, I knew it was in the general vicinity of Western New York.

It has been over 10 years since I’ve been ordained, but this summer I heard the term again – in reference to the area that the Western New York District of the Wesleyan Church resides in, so when I got home from district conference, I looked it up.  Above you can see the area that is encompassed by the Burned-Over District.

The Burned-Over District is a phrase that was coined by Charles Finney during the Second Great Awakening.  He called it the Burned Over District because he felt the area had been so heavily evangelized that there was no more “fuel” left – that there was no one left to convert.  That’s an interesting concept, except that it really wasn’t true.  Western New York had been not evangelized any more heavily than say than the rest of New York or the Lower Ohio River Valley.

An interesting phenomenon is that during the 19th century, the Burned Over District was the home of much religious revival and social reform.  Interestingly enough, not only was the Burned Over District home to much religious revival, but it where many cults (those who practiced out of orthodox Christianity) got started.  The Later Day Saints movement started here, as well as the Millerite movement – which birthed the Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others.  The Shakers farmed in the area and Oneida Society established a community in Central New York.

I find all of this fascinating. Several weeks ago, I went to Syracuse to pick up my daughter and two children for a visit. Her husband was going to come down later.  I was well ahead of schedule, so I took the long way and drove through several historical towns.   The first was Waterloo – which claims that it is the birthplace of Memorial Day.  The second was Seneca Falls.  This is where the first meeting for Women’s Rights was held.  It was held in a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.  The reproduced chapel sits right on Main Street.  Wesleyans were on the forefront of this social movement.  A Wesleyan, Luther Lee, preached at the first ordination of a woman in America.  Wesleyans were also on the forefront of the Abolitionist movement.  Again the Burned Over District was a place where this was a hot topic.  If I would have continued driving, I would have ended up in Auburn, NY, which was the home of Harriet Tubman – most of you know her as a key player in the Underground Railroad – which by the way – there were Wesleyan churches that served as stations on the Underground Railroad.

So, while we live just outside the Burned Over District, our church is influenced by it greatly.  Today, few would consider Western New York and even Central New York to be over evangelized.  Most Wesleyans wouldn’t consider it.  We have just 36 churches here in Western New York (and two counties in Pennsylvania.)  Our desire is for revival – our desire is to see a transforming presence in our churches and in our communities.  We need to continue to reach people for Jesus.  I love the fact that this region is the home of the Second Great Awakening – what if, this could be the home of the Third Great Awakening.  What if Western New York could be the place where reconciliation begins in our country.  I know that I am game for it.  The Kingdom needs it.  Let me finish with Jesus’s words from the sermon on the mount.  It is about what is needed if we are to bring His Kingdom to earth.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.

Matthew 5:3-12

There are people out there who need to hear about Jesus.  I know that I’ve quoted this several weeks in a row, but the vision of the Wesleyan Church is this:

Celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and a church multiplies itself until the Wesleyan Church has a transforming presence in every zip code.

I know that the Western New York region is far from being over-evangelized and I want to do my part and I desire to see McCrae Brook do its part in reaching our region for Jesus and to make disciples.