Running the Race: Spiritual Truths from 26.2

I shared this on my personal Facebook page in the days following this, but I never shared it over here.

The day after running my first marathon in Baltimore, I had the honor of speaking at my church.  As you might imagine, the marathon process played a significant role in what I shared with our congregation.  For those that may be interested in such things, here is the message.

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg – March 31, 2019

Little late posting this, but here’s a little attempt at vlogging for a change.  My oldest daughter and I drove up to Busch Gardens after church on March 31 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Apollo’s Chariot.  Thanks to some cool and drizzly weather, we had an amazing day.  Check it out!

Captain Marvel: A Father’s Perspective

Disclaimer: I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even the weakest of films in this collection provides solid entertainment (well, let’s act like the Edward Norton version of Hulk never happened, ok?).

I have been looking forward to the release of Captain Marvel since it was first announced.  It coming just a month ahead of the release of Avengers: End Game only made it that much more exciting for me.  Just when I thought the hype train couldn’t gain any more steam in my house, my oldest daughter began watching some of the older MCU films with me (Ant Man and Black Panther have been her favorites so far) and our youngest daughter announced that she also wanted to see Captain Marvel.  How cool was this?

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Then I got sick as a dog Friday night.  Fortunately our advance purchase tickets weren’t for the weekend.  They were for Monday night.  Sunday afternoon, I came across a review of the movie from a well known Christian blog site.  I won’t name it because I don’t want to give this particular review any additional traffic, but also, I don’t want to tarnish the good that this particular ministry does accomplish simply because of this published review of Captain Marvel.  I will say this. At the time, the review caught my attention.  I was however able to go into the movie and form my own opinion based on what I saw in the movie and not what I read in this review.

The review incorrectly painted Captain Marvel as a far-left, anti-male, ultra-feminist film.  It bemoaned that fact that Captain Marvel is a woman who finds herself in her current situation because she was constantly trying to do things that men were supposed to do instead of women.  It lamented the fact that the hero of the story was a woman.  The review even went so far as to say that it set up Captain Marvel as a messiah-like figure.  News flash.  EVERY super hero is technically set up as a fictional messiah.  Why is this author only upset in this one particular instance?  I have my opinions and thoughts, but I will keep them to myself.

Here is what this father actually saw.  I watched a movie that drove home a message to my daughters that they are the one’s that choose their path.  As parents, we pray that they follow God’s path, and I believe that both of our girls are off to a great start.  That being said, no person on this earth should be able to tell my daughters what they can or can’t do simply because they are girls.  My girls don’t have to ‘prove’ themselves to anyone and that is a message that Captain Marvel delivered beautifully.

Now, back to that ‘review’ I mentioned earlier.  Apparently the author of that review decided to conveniently ignore the stories of Deborah, Rahab, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Mary, and so many other women in the Biblical narrative.  What if Esther had listened to tradition and refused to go before the king on behalf of her people?  What about the resurrection narrative?  If women are second-class citizens, why would women be the first to not only hear the announcement that Christ was risen, but also be the first to see His resurrected body?

Here’s the scary truth.  My daughters and I love the old Disney princess films.  Guess what?  We also like Mulan, Brave, and Frozen.  You see, I can enjoy the old films and still enjoy the new films that remind girls that they don’t have to be rescued by a man.

Take it from this dad.  If you have daughters and they are old enough to see it (our youngest is 10 and loved it), take them to see Captain Marvel.  Let your daughters see that you support them making their own decisions about what to do with their lives.  Remind them that no man has the right to tell them what they have to be.  Your girls will thank you for it.

Monday Meditations: Psalms 30:5

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A few short things that I gleaned from this verse during my quiet time today.

  1. God’s anger doesn’t last.  Rest assured that we can and do make God angry, but His anger will not last forever.  Just like a parent does not stay angry at their child forever, God will not stay angry at us forever.  This doesn’t exclude us from suffering the consequences of our actions, but it also reminds us that even when He is angry, He still loves us unconditionally.
  2. God’s favor is eternal. He will never stop loving His creation. Many will use the knowledge of His love to say that His love makes the concept of Hell an impossibility.  That is not the case.  God loves us all, but He is also holy and just and therefore our actions have consequences.  The good news is that when we ask for His forgiveness, His love (demonstrated through the sacrifice of Christ) allows Him to blot out our sins and to remove them as far as the east is from the west.  The love of God is eternal and knows no limit.
  3. Sorrow is temporary. I am so thankful for that.  In the past two years alone I have experienced more sorrow than I ever wanted to.  I still have days where I grieve and mourn the loss of my parents, but I have many more days where I look forward to our eternal reunion in Heaven.  Which leads me to my final point today.
  4. Our sorrow will ultimately end in joy.  In the midst of your sorrow, this is a hard truth to grab hold of, but it’s true nonetheless. I came out of my sorrow to discover a new level of joy in appreciating time with my family, the health of my own body, and the ability to love others.  I also discovered the joy of realizing that the goodbyes I said to Dad and Mom recently, were just ‘see ya laters.’ I WILL see them again, and when I do, they will be fully whole.  No more sickness. No more pain. No more cancer.  I can’t wait!

Quick Training Update

Fresh off the heels of one hundred mile January came February.  Spoiler alert – February was not a good month.

The month started off with me fighting off some sinus/respiratory crud (I mean, who doesn’t get sick when the temperatures fluctuate from 70 to 30 in a matter of a day?). The month also included my first ever DNS (Did Not Start) for a race. I was supposed to run a 10 miler in Yorktown and between the bad weather and family not being healthy, I just couldn’t bring myself to drive an hour away to run the race.  I did run the Colonial Half Marathon in Williamsburg (race report still pending) a week later.  I also battled some nagging ‘injuries’ that hindered my training.  I ultimately came to the conclusion that both pairs of running shoes had worn down significantly.  I also figured out that if you are going to alternate running shoes, it’s probably not a good idea to use one pair of zero-drop shoes and another pair that is not zero drop.  My new Altras should be here tomorrow, so I only have to endure one more run in my old ones.

Despite all of the junk that came with February, I did manage to get 50 miles in.  I’m not at all happy with that, but I’m still way ahead of where I was at the end of March this time last year.  Celebrate the wins, right?

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While I am looking forward to a better month of training in March, I am not looking forward to the month in general.  I will need a lot of distractions. The local theme parks open up this month so I plan on getting some early season roller coaster rides.  Hopefully running will provide some distraction, and hopefully, my beloved Tar Heels basketball team can provide some excitement in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

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Why am I not looking forward to March?  Well, two years ago in March we found out my Dad had cancer and we would lose him just four months later.  Then last year, we said goodbye to my mom on March 15.  To say that I just want to get through this month would be a severe understatement.

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  Gonna try to be on here much more regularly if time will allow.  If you’re so inclined, please remember our family this month.  It’s gonna be a tough one.

100 Mile January

This will be short and sweet, but it’s something that I’m pretty darn proud of.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that this time last year, my life was spinning out of control.  Mom was in ICU in the final months of her life, I was traveling back and forth from Virginia Beach to Baltimore about every 10 days.  Stress was crazy and my health took a back seat to taking care of mom and trying to make sure my family had what they needed.

You also know that I bounced back pretty well after everything culminated in Mom’s passing. This bounce back included my first marathon in October.  That said, it is still amazing for me to look back at last January versus this January.

At the end of January 2018, I had run a whopping 47.6 miles.  At the end of February 2018, that total was 93.8.  By the end of March, it was 135.7.  That’s not a ton of running for someone who was running a lot more than that.

Here’s where I’m at at the end of January 2019.

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Pretty cool to see how far I’ve come.  Can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings with my fitness journey.

Who Can Ascend?

Four years ago, as a relatively new blogger, I wrote this. The verses outlined in this short blog are the verses that inspired the title of my blog.   I still cling to those verses and keep them in mind constantly in my role as a worship pastor.  I also believe firmly that these verses apply not only to what I do within the four walls of the local church, but also to everything that I do in life.  Far too often I fall short, but the beauty of God’s grace and mercy is that when I repent, I am given 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or however many chances it takes to get it right.

In my personal Bible study a few days ago, I read Psalm 15.  I’ve read through the Bible multiple times over the past few years, but this passage came roaring to life a few days ago.  I found direct correlation between the words of this passage to the words of Psalm 24:3-5.  Take a look.

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The psalmist starts with a question. God, who can live in Your house?  The next four verses give us a clearer picture.  Let’s break it down for a few minutes.

The ESV says is this way.

Ps. 15:2

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks the truth in his heart;

To put it quite simply, verse 2 says that the first two qualifications are righteousness and honesty.  As Christians we understand that our own righteousness is the equivalent of filthy rags before God.  However, when covered by the blood of Jesus, we are clothed in His righteousness.

The psalmist also speaks of telling the truth.  We live in a world where honesty is a rare commodity to be found.  Politicians lie to get votes (both sides do it). Employees lie to employers to avoid trouble or gain a promotion. Kids lie to their parents and parents lie to their kids.  Dishonesty is everywhere. Everywhere that is except in the presence of God.  We can not come into God’s presence with lies on our lips.

Ps. 15:3

who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up reproach against his friend;

Next we find out what is expected of us in our relationships with others.  Slander is not allowed. Grudges aren’t to be held.  We are not to seek revenge or retribution from our neighbors.

Ouch. Slander and revenge have become the norm today.  It’s hard to find someone who speaks well of others.  Then again, it’s much more juicy to hear bad things about someone, even when it isn’t true.  We are a people that love to gossip.  We are also a people that would much rather hear and assume the bad about people than believe and hope for the best.  If we choose to spread false information about others, that becomes a hindrance to us entering into God’s presence.

Ps. 15:4

in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

The beginning of the verse is pretty easy to figure out.  The person who wants to ascend into God’s house will despise evil and honor righteousness.  It’s the last part of that verse that is a bit tougher to swallow.  The person who wants to be in God’s presence ‘swears to his own hurt and does not change.’  What does that even mean?

It actually goes back to verse 2 that talks about honesty.  This takes honesty a step farther and includes being honest even when it is to your own detriment.  It’s hard to be honest when you know that your honesty will have a negative outcome for you.  That said, it is a character trait that we must work on as believers if we want to experience His presence.

Ps. 15:5

who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

The final verse of this chapter addresses how we handle money.  It first addresses the loaning of money at interest.  This is an issue that we see addressed often in scripture.  Apparently, there was a constant problem among the Israelites that involved taking advantage of the poor by loaning money at high interest rates.  By reading scripture we know that God is very concerned for the poor so it should come as no surprise that He does not want us to exploit those who are less fortunate than us.

Lastly, he addresses taking bribes.  This should be a no brainer, but as humans, we all love easy access to money. On the surface, taking a bribe is easy money.  What we have to realize is that we are making money at someone else’s expense.  It is neither ethical or moral to do so.

Treating people right with your finances is another factor in being able to truly enter into God’s presence.

As a worship pastor, not only do I want to effectively lead our church into His presence through song, I want to make sure that I am spending time daily in His presence.  If I am doing any of these things listed in Psalm 15, they become road blocks for me as I try to get there.  I have to make sure that I am doing what’s right if I expect to be able to lead people there.

We should all desire that daily time with God.  When we find ourselves not being able to get there, we need to evaluate honestly so that we can make any corrections in our lives that we need to.  God wants us all to spend time with him, but sin can not stand before Him.

This is not meant to be a word of condemnation, but rather a word to encourage each of us to make sure that we are not doing anything that would hinder us from experiencing the fulness of His presence.

Be blessed!

Chris