Another Random Thought on Running

Do you ever feel like you’re not making any progress in life? That life should be easier by now, but it’s not?

I was wondering about this yesterday when I was out running. I’ve been running for a month and a half, which I recognize is a shorter amount of time than a Kardashian marriage, but I kinda thought it would be easier by now. But it’s not.

My legs still scream obscenities at me. My lungs threaten to make like a tree and get out of here. I still haven’t stumbled on that mythical creature named “Runner’s Bliss.”

What I did realize however was even though running is not yet easier, choosing to run is easier.

It’s not as hard to convince myself to run. I even look forward to it a little. (I must be a sucker for punishment.)

Most likely, my running reality is it will always hurt to run. In fact, I’m assuming that’s how it’s going to be. But seeing the benefits of running, improving, and even enjoying it despite the pain are all making it easier and easier to choose to run.

This mirrors life. I had this idea in my head that as I got older and closer to God, life would start being easier. That loving people who are hard to love, being less selfish, being more disciplined, and saying no to temptation would become easier.

What I’ve realized is living God’s way is not easier, but choosing to live God’s way has become easier.

There is a misconception today that if we can just get to this place, or grasp this concept, or read this book, or discover this secret key, then life will finally be easy. This is not an idea that finds its root in Scripture, but rather in the American dream.

A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing John Piper speak at a conference. He shared how as a seventy-year-old man he still failed countless times each day at keeping God’s two greatest commandments. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, John Piper is the modern day equivalent of Moses!

Be encouraged. Life is hard, and living God’s way will always be hard. Even if you’re John Piper. But choosing to live God’s way today will make it easier to choose God’s way tomorrow.

Sword Making Disciples

This is such a cool video with some profound insights into disciple-making. Discipleship is not the cookie-cutter, assembly line, one-size-fits-all-so-just-read-this-book-with-me-for-the-next-three-months kind of program we see too much of in the church. Discipleship is a complex, highly intimate, purely relational transference of one person’s way of life to another. It is a process that takes YEARS.

What insights do you see in the video regarding disciple-making?

Run for Fun?

I’ve started running again.

I hesitate to mention this in such a public forum which gives it an almost official status, because I’m not sure Running and I have reached that place in our relationship yet.

I also hesitate to use the word again which conveys the impression that I have ever been a serious runner. To be clear, I use the word in the manner of saying, “I have run before.” Which is not a lie.

Sometimes I run to a meeting when I am late. I will often run to the kitchen during a commercial break. Just this morning, I ran to the bathroom. So I do run, but I would not say I am a runner. There is a difference.

All that to say I am giving Running another try. And I realized something on my run today. (Does that last sentence make me sound like a runner?)

The path is not always smooth. Brilliant, right?

I run on roads (there is no sidewalk option on my side of town), and as I turned a corner I decided to venture off the road and onto the gravelly surface. It was a “short cut.” I shaved 1.25 seconds off my run.

I quickly noticed there were some dangerous potholes which I was able to avoid with my catlike, Barry Sanders’ moves. This was also not too difficult since I was running jogging at a pretty moderate pace.

The light bulb was that when I run I have an expectancy the path will not make running more difficult or cause an injury. The run itself is hard enough on my body. (I really am a big baby.) The road should not be an additional obstacle to overcome.

I think sometimes I approach life in the same way, but life comes with no such guarantee. We should not be thrown off course when our course is disrupted. We should not complain or be surprised or become obsessed with life’s potholes. Everybody has them. Just get out there and keep running.

Jesus never promised us a smooth ride. But He did tell He is with us and for us. And I believe He meant that would be enough.

Another thing I realized on my run was that thinking about what I could write on my blog dramatically lessened the constant ache running produces. But eventually the pain comes back, and you realize you’re very far from your house and about 3 seconds away from a heart attack.

Then I hit what runners so happily refer to as “the wall.”

At this point, my jog crawl still resembled a running motion, but I was going slower than most 90-year-olds with walkers. So I decided was forced to walk. I eventually made it home.

I can’t wait to do this again in two days.

Has God ever spoken to you on a run? What’d He say?

More Than Consumers

Ugh. How many more shopping days til Christmas?

In a few years, I think the 12 Days of Christmas will be renamed the 12 Days of Shopping for Christmas. We have Black Friday, which has mysteriously overtaken much of Thursday, a day we have traditionally referred to as Thanksgiving Day (if you’re unsure of the historicity behind Thanksgiving, find all your answers here). Saturday is now known as “Small Business Saturday,” and today is “Cyber Monday.”

Are you aware that tomorrow is now being referred to as “Green Tuesday?” From what I understand it’s a great opportunity to save some serious green by purchasing, uh, green items you’ve always wanted but might not have known existed and couldn’t afford previously but now you can during this once in a lifetime annual one-day sale weeklong sale… wait, does any of this ring a bell?

Well, all this shopping has got me thinking. We are bombarded with messages telling us we need this and we can’t live without that. At the core of these messages is the view that you and I are no more than consumers. The sad thing is you hear something enough, and you begin to believe it.

I like to consume things (like bacon!). I need to consume things (like bacon?).

But I am more than a consumer, and Christmas is not about consumption (just to set the record straight, it is actually supposed to be a birthday party for Jesus).

This year our church is participating in something called “Advent Conspiracy.” The basic idea is to divert some of our traditional Christmas spending towards a legit need, i.e. instead of buying Aunt Bertha another sweater with a cat on it, we donate that amount of money to an organization that feeds kids literally starving to death.

We are partnering with Kids Against Hunger, and if you’d like to help us reach our goal, shoot me an email. Here’s a video that details the absolute brilliance behind Advent Conspiracy. If your church doesn’t already do something like this during the Christmas season, there’s no time like the present

A Hair Drying Lesson

Kelly and Addi are discussing the possibility of growing out their hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love. Not a very feasible project for me, although I could probably grow a mean mullet…

Tonight, as I dried Addi’s hair with the hair dryer, she asked me what would happen when she cut her hair. I told her they would make it into a wig for someone to wear. She asked if the hair would continue to grow.

“No,” I answered. “Hair can only grow when it’s connected to your head. Once it’s cut, it can’t grow anymore.”

Light bulb.

I think Jesus once said something like this and then applied it to our relationship with Him.

It’s a pretty simple concept, isn’t it? Connected to Him we can grow, we can serve, we can accomplish much. Cut ourselves off from Him though and, in Jesus’ own words, we can do nothing.

Simple concept, yet far too often I need to be reminded of it. My identity is in Christ.

Eat the Fruit of THIS Tree

Adam and Eve had it good. Then they had to screw it all up. There was just one thing they couldn’t do, just one area that was off-limits, so you’d think they could have not messed it up for the rest of us, right? C’mon guys!

“Don’t eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Don’t do it,” God said. Have you ever wondered why God said that? Did He arbitrarily choose one tree out of the garden, or was there something potently dangerous about this tree?

(Speculative side-note: what if Satan actually planted this tree?)

God placed Adam and Eve on the earth to be his co-regents, to rule the earth while remaining under his rule. They did not originally have any knowledge of good and evil (this is my theory as to why they did not care that they were all nakey; there was not even a hint of shame in their self-awareness). They did not need the knowledge of good and evil; they simply needed to trust their King and obey Him in all things. Which does make things simpler and less stressful… remember the good ol’ days of a carefree childhood?

So their great disobedience was the intentional pursuit of discovering and choosing good and evil for themselves, spurning their Father and His rightful rule, commandeering His reign over their lives.

The sad truth is each of us is Adam… or Eve, if you’d prefer. Every man, woman, and child has stood before that tree, grabbed the fruit and defiantly devoured it, rejecting God’s reign over us, making ourselves kings/gods in our own eyes. We have all eaten of that tree.

But there is a second tree, and a second command to go with it.

We are also familiar with this tree. A sanitized version of it is one of the most popular religious symbols in the world, but there is nothing sanitary about this tree. It is a gruesome instrument of torture and execution.

The tree is the cross, and the command is to eat the fruit of this tree. What is the fruit that hangs from this tree? Jesus Messiah, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus commands those willing to live under His reign to “eat His flesh, and drink His blood.” Symbolically, by taking in the bread and the cup; literally, by fully taking in Jesus and His ways, placing Him in His rightful place as King of our lives.

The fruit of the first tree brought separation, exile, and death. The fruit of the second tree brings reunion, restoration, and life.

The first tree gave us intimate knowledge of good and evil, something too potent for us to handle, bringing chaos and collapse into our lives and rippling throughout all of creation.

The second tree gives us the opportunity for a different kind of knowledge: an intimate knowing of King Jesus… discovering the power of His resurrection, joining Him by sharing in His sufferings, somehow becoming like Him in His death, someday attaining resurrection through Him, and living victoriously with Him forever.

Eat the fruit of THIS tree.

Cupcakes and Bacon

Today, the boys are bringing snacks to share at preschool because their birthday was last Thursday. Micah chose cupcakes that look like Lightning McQueen. Levi chose bacon.

Kelly ran this plan by their teacher, who said it’s fine but also a first. No preschooler has ever brought bacon as a snack before.

We’ve noticed Levi gets really excited when it’s his day to bring the snack. I think it is because he enjoys certain foods so much, and he naturally wants to share his love of food with his classmates.

In his mind, if there is a food he gets excited about, then it is a food that everyone will love just the same. And it gives him great pleasure to share that amazing food, to see his friends enjoy the food that he enjoys.

I think he’s on to something, and I’m pretty sure he’s picked what might possibly become the best snack ever. Bacon has got to be one of the greatest blessings the good Lord has bestowed upon us; talk about “Good Mood Food!”

There’s another lesson Levi is teaching us, related to evangelism. We have made evangelism all about sharing certain information, about finding ways to manipulate conversations and persuade people to see things the way we do, and convincing them to make the right decision with the information we’ve provided. Evangelism is something we need extensive training to do correctly; it is something we need extraordinary giftings to do well; honestly, it is something that most of us dread doing or at the very least makes us squirm.

In the same way that Levi is simply being a witness: “Hey friends, here’s this awesome food; come enjoy it with me,” we should simply (and naturally) be a witness: “Hey friends, let me introduce you to this guy Jesus; want to hang out with me as I spend time with Him?”

But this is not a simple or natural thing for most of us to do… or we would already be doing it. Maybe part of our hang-up is that we simply do not enjoy Jesus as much as we do bacon. Or at least as much as I enjoy bacon.

So let me offer this prayer for you and for me (which is incredibly ironic since bacon was a no-no for the Jews in Jesus’ day!), “May Jesus be to our souls, what bacon is to my stomach.”

Fast Food Spirituality

Drive Thru Worker: Welcome to McJesus™! What can I get for you?

Person #1: Yeah, I’d like my sins forgiven. And uh, I have a tough test on Thursday, so can I get a Memory Enhancer?

Drive Thru Worker: What size would you like?

Person #1: Super-size me!

Drive Thru Worker: Will that be all?

Person #1: Yeah.

Drive Thru Worker: That’s one order of Sins Forgiven and a super-sized Memory Enhancer. Pull around to the second window please.

Drive Thru Worker: Welcome to McJesus™! What can I get for you?

Person #2: Hi. Can I get my sins forgiven? I have a lot.

Drive Thru Worker: That’s not a problem. We’re happy to help. Anything else?

Person #2: Oh, and my grandma’s really sick. Can I get a large Health and Comfort for her?

Drive Thru Worker: Yes, you can. So that’s a large Health and Comfort and an order of Sins Forgiven. Will that be all?

Person #2: Yep. Thanks so much! I’m feeling better already.

Drive Thru Worker: You’re welcome. Pull around to the second window please.

Drive Thru Worker: Welcome to McJesus™! How can I serve you today?

Person #3: Hi. I need a large Peace About an Important Decision, a medium Sense of Purpose, and an extra-large Sense of God’s Presence. And I need them quick, please, I’m running late today!

Drive Thru Worker: Not a problem. We’ll have those for you right away. Just pull up to the second window and have a blessed day.

Person #3: Great! See you next Sunday!


Have you ever treated Jesus like a fast food franchise? Or a vending machine? Or a genie in a bottle?

Why do you think our society (generally speaking) has a tendency to do that?

Willing to Die

Jesus and his disciples were heading towards Jerusalem. On the way he warned them of persecution that was to come: “All nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”

They continued walking and arrived in the Gilan Province of Iran. They walked up to the courthouse, and Jesus turned to them and said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God. Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”

They went on their way and came to Pyongyang, North Korea. As they passed by an underground church, Jesus said, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

They walked on to Nigeria, stopping in village after village where many had recently been martyred. Jesus encouraged the people there, then turning to his disciples said, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

My great-grandfather was an Armenian pastor murdered by Turkish Muslims for his faith. In the face of persecution, how significant the words of Jesus must have been to him!

In my super-safe-suburban-bubble, I don’t even fully grasp them. Yet I still hold back and complain and think, “these words of Jesus are too hard. Who can take them literally? Surely what he really means is…”

What words of Jesus do you tend to ignore?
What commands do you think are just too hard to follow?

Do you think believers in persecuted countries have an advantage over us? How so?