"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
To that end, Pastor Beaty provided an outstanding message this past Sunday. In short, he taught us to better live in the Spirit by:
1. Acknowledging the Holy Spirit : Do we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what He was sent to provide for us? Are we reverent of the Holy Spirit? We are told by Christ, that He and the Father would provide a teacher, counselor, helper that would come to us in their physical absence. This teacher would be the God / Christ in us. The Holy Trinity, as it was termed by the early church, is the final substance of God that we experience as mankind. God the Father created, His son Jesus came to die for us and the Holy Spirit is implanted in believers when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
2. Being Attentive to the Holy Spirit : We’ve talked often during this study about the need to be about those things that are of God. This is not a suggestion to live out a ‘Monk-like’ existence, but it is true that where we spend our time, and with whom we spend our time, we are influenced. If we are consumed with the Holy Spirit, we will be in the Word. And not only in the Word, we will look to meditate on scripture and seek the Spirit’s counsel. Ask, then seek and listen.
3. Acting on the Holy Spirit’s calling : Once we acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we become truly attentive to His work, we then must act upon that guidance. Our action becomes Kingdom work when we take the leaps of faith and go where the Spirit is calling us to go. For most of us this not require selling off everything and making a permanent home in a third world country (but it might). No, for most of us, it’s the urging to share God and His love with the neighbor next door, the co-worker, the homeless. Acting becomes the living out of our Faith.
The verse referenced by Pastor Beaty, while explaining the idea of acting upon the Spirit’s calling, was Acts 8:30. Here we find Philip being asked to travel a road without knowing exactly why. Soon enough, Philip found himself with the opportunity to share with a stranger. An Ethiopian traveling home from Jerusalem had been reading through Isaiah, when upon the Spirit’s prompting, "Philip RAN alongside the chariot" to strike up the conversation. Scripture doesn’t say that Philip hesitated, or that he was prompted twice, or even that he slowly made his way over. Scripture tells us that he RAN! Like we discuss in Run For God, often God’s Word uses the term run to describe the urgency required. Here I think it might truly be that Philip ran to catch up with the chariot and that he did so with great urgency, not letting it slip away. What a great encouragement for us to follow.
As we acknowledge, stay attentive to and act according to the Spirit’s leading, I believe we will all be better RUNNERS!
Thursday, November 14, 2013
1. Probably the biggest surprise had to do with how well my legs performed. Over the past 18 weeks, I have ‘mostly’ followed the Hanson Brother’s training plan. Because of the increase in total miles and the lack of any 16 mile + runs, I admit that I didn’t exactly trust the plan. I approached the starting line with an uneasy feeling about miles 16 - 26. I had run several half distances in the past month, so I knew that I would easily complete the first half under 1:45, but had very little clue about the second half. As it played out, the first 21 miles were the fastest and most evenly paced (see split review below) that I have ever run. I was on pace for a 3:29 and feeling strong. In fact, I was more surprised with how strong I felt than the actual pace. I recall moving through miles 15 - 19 and feeling as if my legs were so tuned in that I didn’t have to think about turning them over or checking pace. Somewhere around mile 20 I thought, ‘you know, I kind of like those Hanson Brothers after all.'
2. It’s no secret that I really enjoy interacting with other runners and supporters before, during and after marathons. Unfortunately, I am typically alone in this pursuit. Aside from my first race at Disney in ’11, Savannah was the first time that my wife joined me for the event. And unlike Disney, here she could actually meet up with me at certain points, encourage and hand out chocolate! Yes, mile 21 and a couple of mini-Hershey's saved the day. It was nice to enjoy the experience and the weekend together. From a practical standpoint, in addition to the chocolate, having a ride to the starting line and a helping hand at the finish line, was really nice as well. I am hopeful there will be more shared trips.
3. The playlist was once again changed up. Eight marathons and seven different playlists (I went without music for one and will never do that again). For Savannah, I went all praise & worship and gospel (see playlist below). It worked. It really worked. Several songs hit right at the key moments, and in particular was a revved up version of ‘I Saw the Light’ that came on about halfway into mile 25. Man, I needed that. Picked up the pace and cruised to the finish line.
4. Rock-n-Roll races are definitely heavy on the half-marathon. Of the approximately 18,000 finishers, there were just over 3,000 marathoners. I love the excitement and speed that half-marathoners bring to the first 11+ miles on these courses, but I found that miles 12-26 were not nearly as supported in terms of crowds, scenery, race officials, entertainment, etc. Not that we don’t put in a lot of lonely miles as it is, but it is a big difference if you were looking for 26 miles of the Rock-n-Roll vibe.
5. Surprised that I almost blew my pre-race ritual by delaying the trip to porta-jon boulevard. I found myself standing in line with 10 minutes until race time; not good for a maniacal planner type of guy. With my wife dropping me off in close proximity to the start, I cut it too close. I should have arrived 30 minutes earlier. That said, I made it to the corral, consumed my peanut butter GU and washed it down with 8 ounces of pre-race Coca-Cola, retied my shoes and took off my hat for the National Anthem. It was go time before I knew it.
6. The course was flat, with the exception of a few overpasses, on/off ramps to overpasses and a beltway road in Savannah that had some elevation, but an even more debilitating headwind (especially trouble in miles 22-23). The course also seemed to be a blend of early stage industrial, mid-race neighborhoods and late stage campus' and parks. To me, the mix broke up the monotony somewhat and was enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed running through Savannah State University. The marching band, cheerleaders and mascot were all out, and we even entered the stadium and ran around the track for 3/4 of a loop. Ultimately, the finish in Forsyth park is a great finish. A slight downhill for the final 1/4 mile is always a good thing, and the park worked really well for so many people. There was plenty of post-race refreshments and all was extremely well organized.
In summary, over the past three years, I have attempted to train for a PR in the Fall and then run for fun the remainder of the year. So Savannah was my shot to break the 2012 Chicago time of 3:35:21. I trained for a goal of 3:29:59. Aggressive, yes, but I really felt it was doable. As race day approached, mostly out of a lack of confidence in my training plan and my diet, I adjusted my goal to 3:35:20 (to be honest, I actually started hoping to go sub-3:40) But thanks to a cautious early race pace, and the ability to hang on to some sense of control for 23 miles, I finished with a 3:31:13 and a very happy experience in Savannah.
I specifically recall telling myself several times in the final two miles, “Self, you have two miles to gut this out. You can pull way back and your legs will feel a little better, but you will be so disappointed in your finish. Or, self, you can just keep going as hard as you can. It will hurt more, but you will have a much greater sense of accomplishment in the long run.” Every quarter mile I repeated this little internal monologue. And every quarter mile I decided to just keep going to see what would happen. On this day, I must have known what I was talking about, at least to myself.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
In short, absolutely not. The grace that saves, is received when we come to true confession and repentance in Jesus (Romans 10:9). With genuine transformation comes a desire to obey out of gratitude for grace. Not because we “have to," but because we “want to." Paul is very clear in chapter 5 as to what a believer’s life should model. He highlights the differences between walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh.
I have highlighted a couple of the key passages that we should continue to meditate on and apply.
Galatians 5:13-15 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
NOTE: The fruit of the Spirit are not 'a la carte' options for us. We all have varying spiritual gifts for which we are to utilize in our service to Him and others. However, the characteristics in this list should all be present in our life. Some will require more work than others, and some will come more naturally, but we are to strive to excel in each of them.
Monday, November 4, 2013
To comprehend the idea of God’s saving grace, can be a truly liberating moment for us. Whether we have sought salvation through works and ritual, or through simply being a good person, we have equally missed the mark. Acceptance of God’s grace is the one, lone requirement for a believer of Christ. All else indicates that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, was not sufficient.
There is much more in this wonderful book that we will learn and apply, and we will see some real gems in chapter 5 later this week. But it all comes back to understanding the Gospel of Grace. I have included a link to Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace (the addition of ‘my chains are gone, I’ve been set free’ is right on) and as you listen to it, consider the words of Paul. At about the 3:45 mark, Chris shares a word about John Newton, the author of the poem, Amazing Grace. It’s a great song and a great way to spend some time meditating on grace.
See you Wednesday.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie Amazing Grace, about John Newton, it is definitely worth a view.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Ok, I admit it, for the past several years, I have completed each and every training cycle having missed only one or two of the prescribed 85+ training runs. I run the exact distance and pace that is determined in the plan. It might not always seem like it will, but it does work. Nine times out of ten, following the plan has led to the achievement of my pre-race goal, and most importantly, it has led to an injury-free cycle.
Enter the 2013 Hanson Brothers Marathon Training Program.
For the November 9th Savannah Marathon, I decided to attempt and kick my training up a notch with the Hanson Brothers. The use of, and appreciation for, Hal Higdon plans has been well documented in this blog. However, I felt it was time to incorporate more speed work, more mileage and more elite athlete practices in order to reach my next PR. Because, as you all know, deep down I am a Kenyan runner.
Almost 14 weeks ago, I embarked on this new course. For most of this time, I have had dead legs. The good news is that I expected dead legs; it's part of the Hanson's philosophy. I have seen improvement in pace, through tempo runs, and overall endurance, through speed work. However, I have also realized that it was time to back off a bit as of late. There is a difference between good mileage on dead legs and empty training miles on dead legs. It seemed that the six day-a-week runs were starting to take a toll.
So, a few weeks ago, and continuing to November 9th, I have modified the plan. I've blended the later weeks of Higdon with the tempo and speed work of Hansons. I have even backed off to five days per week in an attempt to energize the legs. The amazing thing is that this past week I ran a 13.1 tempo run in one of the fastest times I've ever had. We'll see what happens from here.
Moral of the story; trust your plan all the way up to the point that your body says modify the plan. Don't wimp out on it, because it becomes way too easy to constantly change. Instead, reflect on why you are needing to change it, consider what advantages / disadvantages you will get from changing it, and most importantly, treat the new plan as just that, an actual plan. Then simply trust it. See, there's that guy again!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
In short, here's the deal:
Peter was a strong advocate for the Gentile believers. Not only did he believe, and teach, that Christ came for all, he also agreed with Paul that Gentiles were not required to fulfill Jewish customs in order to be accepted by God. In fact, it was Peter who received the vision in Acts 10 of the Lord sending down a sheet of "unclean" food and assured Peter that everything He made was clean. This was a message of acceptance for the Gentiles, despite Jewish custom. Peter then took this gospel, or 'good news' of grace, to the Gentile Cornelius, where scripture later says, "the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles." (Note: it was also Peter who says in Acts 10:34, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.")
For whatever reason, Peter was now acting as if he could not be seen in fellowship with the Gentiles, especially when the Pharisee leaders would come around. He had not been that way before, but he was becoming somewhat hypocritical in his belief that grace saves, and his actions that indicated he could not be around Gentiles and remain pure in God's eyes. It was as if he begins to consider the Gentiles as second class citizens when the church leaders are around.
Then in walks Paul! We really get a sense of Paul's passion and his boldness when he says in verse 11, "I opposed him to his face ...." Why? Because he saw that Peter was influencing others by his behavior. He was "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel." He continued to remind Peter of the saving grace that is available to Jew and Gentile alike. That it is faith in Christ, not obedience to the law, that justifies. Paul says in verse 19, "... I died to the law so that I might live for God."
Finally, Paul concludes this reprimand of Peter with a truly insightful and powerful verse. Starting in verse 20 and going through 21, he says, "The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" In other words, if obedience to the law truly determined our eternity, then there was no purpose to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Think about that.
There is so much more that we discussed from this passage, too much for this post. So, I'll leave a few key takeaways here and look forward to seeing everyone again next week.
- Do we impose our own standards on others as it relates to their salvation? Perhaps around denominational doctrine, cultural norms, personal bias?
- Do we realign ourselves daily to the Gospel of Grace in order to better appreciate and comprehend how that impacts our our relationships with others?
- Do we exhibit hypocritical tendencies when prioritize pleasing man over pleasing God?
- Keep in mind that the Gospel of Grace is not a free pass to sin. It is a freedom from the bondage of legalism. It should also motivate us to live more Christ-like in our obedience of His word.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The key points to the first half of this week's study (chapter 1:13 - 1:24) include:
Paul's Previous Life (v13-14): "how intensely I persecuted the church", "tried to destroy it (the church of God)", "was extremely zealous for the tradition of my fathers", "was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age."
In other words, Paul was the least likely of any Jew to convert to Christianity, he was the "Hebrew among Hebrews" as he says in Philippians. If not for God's grace, he would never be worthy of acceptance in God's kingdom.
Paul's Conversion (v15-16): On the road to Damascus, "God called me by his grace, and was pleased to reveal His son to me." He did not reveal further rules and rituals, but a relationship. A relationship founded in grace was provided to Paul on that day. The same relationship that is available today. God's grace was sufficient for a murderous, religious zealot, and it's sufficient for us.
Paul's Post-Conversion Experiences (v16-24): Paul went about three very specific activities following his 'Damascus Road' revelation. He first went to be by himself in the area of Arabia and later to Damascus. God knew that Paul would likely need to build trust in his new faith and spend time with Him on a daily basis. He later returned to Damascus.
We also see that Paul was called to "preach among the Gentiles." God had a very specific objective for Paul; to share God's saving grace with Gentiles. Perhaps his past would be less of an obstacle amongst the Gentiles, or perhaps the idea of grace was a perfect pairing for a converted Paul and a people without hope.
Lastly, and finally, we see that Paul made his way to Jerusalem to spend time with Peter and James. To consider that Paul had not spent anytime with these great church leaders until "after three years" is amazing. Yet, he had been preaching the faith that was consistent with the church. In fact, he was "personally unknown" to these leaders. They had only heard the reports, "and they praised God because of me."
So Paul's testimony is purposeful in this letter to the Galatians. He had to remind them of his background in order to better explain grace. He also wanted to refute the false teachers who claimed he received this gospel of grace teaching from man immediately upon his conversion. Of course, Paul tells us in verse 10 that he has no interest in pleasing man over pleasing God. Something tells me his audience realized that Paul was a straight shooter and wouldn't have been swayed by any one's teaching, especially any teacher that contradicted the revelation he received from God.
There is so much more to cover, but so little time. The second half of tonight's study looked at Chapter 2:1-10. It is a great account of Paul and Titus visiting Jerusalem to affirm that a) God's grace is sufficient for acceptance into His kingdom, b) Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was approved by the church leaders, and c) Unity in the church is essential to continuing Kingdom work here on earth.
See you next week as Paul tells the Galatians of a time he opposed Peter for "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel....."