Connections Made in the Mini-Marathon

Zurich Marathon

 

In Kentucky, the first Saturday in May each year is a big day – it’s Derby Day.  And my home city of Louisville hosts literally tens of thousands of visitors who come to witness the “most exciting 2 minutes in scports” – the Kentucky Derby horse race.

But each year on the Saturday before Derby Day another big event happens here in Louisville – the annual Mini-Marathon.  The “Mini” is a 13.1 mile “race” where thousands of participants run, walk, jog and wheel up and down hills and through the streets of downtown Louisville.  The participants even pay for the privilege of participating in the Mini.  A few very bold souls “go the extra 13 miles” and run in a full marathon.

Years ago I ran in the Mini.  It was my one and only time (so far).  Even though I didn’t even attempt to run this year, I am proud to say that there were somewhere between 10 and 20 people of whom I am personally aware from Adventure Christian Church who dedicated themselves to completing this race in 2013.  It is quite an undertaking.  It takes months of training.  The Mini is not something you can just decide to do on a whim.

Some Very Cool Stories

As I listened to stories about people’s experiences with the Mini, something remarkable struck me this year.  For many, the Mini – both the running in it and the preparation for it – was not about the race itself, but about CONNECTIONS with others and with God that were made in the process.  Their stories of perseverance and fellowship are remarkable.

For example, one friend, Russ, was injured during his training several weeks ago.  He had to stop training altogether.  It would have been easy for him to give up and say “well, there’s always next year.”  But he didn’t.  Once he could run again, he did.  Russ finished the race this weekend.

Then there are others who told me that what they loved most about the experience were the friendships that they made with other people with whom they trained.  One person told me that she would probably have never become so close to one of her training partners if it wasn’t for their common goal of preparing for the Mini.  During their Mini training, their connection became a lot more about more important things than just finishing a race.  They became Christian sisters.

There were many other stories about how people encouraged one another, cheered one another on, lifted each other up when they didn’t feel like they could make, and on and on.

And, finally, and one of my favorite comments from the day, was a man from our church who said that he hoped to start a training group at our church within the next month to start preparing for next year already! Just think of the friendships that will be created if that dream transpires!

The Bottom Line

What I personally am taking away from the dedication and the experiences of so many others whom I witnessed accomplish something so challenging are these things:

 

  1. When we set our minds to something, and remain dedicated to it with a plan, there is a high likelihood that we can accomplish the goal.  If we can apply that same “rule of dedication” to other things in our lives – such as learning the Bible, making a difference in our community, etc. then we will truly be blessed.
  2. When we seek to accomplish “big things” people are inspired to seek to do big things themselves.
  3. Personal connections, friendships and Christian fellowship can happen in all sorts of places — even on a path wearing sneakers and walking with a training partner.  Personal connections don’t just happen in church small groups and Sunday school classes (although those are important).  They happen when “regular life” is going on.
  4. We can learn the gift of encouragement by cheering on others when they are doing something difficult.  And, again, I am hopeful that those encouragement skills and habits transfer over to other areas of our lives.  When they do, the body of Christ will be that much stronger.

 

Well, that’s all for now on this topic.  It was a good weekend.  I am proud of my brothers and sisters who really accomplished a remarkable thing and inspired me and many others to live more disciplined, dedicated and encouraging lives in all areas of life.  Thank you all and God bless you!

 

The Power of Jesus Is Bigger Than Your Issues

gospelofmark

Last week at Adventure Christian Church, we began our study of the Gospel of Mark.  For most of the next 20 weeks, our messages on Sundays will focus on the life of Jesus as told in this Gospel.

The first series from this study we have titled:  “The Power of Jesus.”  This post’s notes relate to the first sermon I preached on April 7 which I titled:  “The Power of Jesus Is Bigger than Your Issues”.

As always, you can go to our church website to hear the podcasts.

Here are my notes from April 7 (remember, these are just my notes and not written in “article” format):

What is the Gospel of Mark about? — Mark shows us that God is a God of new beginnings, reminds us of the foundation of our faith, and also provides an example of peace in the face of persecution and opposition.  These themes will be shown repeatedly throughout this Gospel.

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Security Issues

Mark 1:16-18 – “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

note: These men had sacrificed their financial security in order to follow Jesus.  They were not tied to their wealth nor did they find their significance therein.  And because of their faith in Jesus instead of their security he transformed them / promised them to have a higher purpose: from “fishermen” to “fishers of men.”

Jesus is Bigger than Your Social Issues

Mark 1:19-20 – “When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

note:  These two men were willing to put aside their social alliances and comforts (i.e., their family).  Are we willing to sacrifice our social structure and comforts for the One who is even more powerful?

to “leave” = “to depart from permanently” (note: they didn’t just leave for a day – they were going to be different people, with a different social bond).

“The problem with trying to balance friendship with the world and service to God is that one becomes religiously a split personality, looking both to God and to the world for standards and assurance.” – Dave Garland

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Past Issues

Mark 1:23-24 – “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’

Mark 1:25-26 – “Be quiet! said Jesus sternly.  Come out of him!  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”

note: This man had been plagued in the past by an evil spirit.  We all have our own past evil spirits that dwell within us that we can easily allow to fill us (for e.g., regret, abuse, unforgiveness of self or others, past sins).  Jesus has the power to remove our past evil spirits and set us free.

“What once could invade human personalities and evade God’s control, can no longer do so!”

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Indirect Issues

Mark 1:30-31 – “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.”

note: This issue was not directly Simon’s.  Instead, someone close to him had an issue which undoubtedly affected him too.  That happens to us – we have friends and family who have “issues” that cause trouble in our lives.  However, when we introduce Jesus into the picture of that person’s life, He can overcome those issues as well.

Jesus Is Bigger than Your Personal Issues

Mark 1:40-42 – “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, If you are willing you can make me clean.  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  I am willing, he said.  Be clean!  Immediately, the leprosy left him and he was cured.”

note:  There is nothing more personal than a skin disease.  It was painful and even more devastating it caused the person to be unclean and therefore shunned.  We can allow our personal sins that make us so unclean to keep us from the people who can help.  We can get caught up into thinking that we aren’t worth Jesus’ healing power or that He can’t help.  But he can.  He has power over our sin.

The leper was worth the effort — and so are YOU!!

Remember where the power is:

Mark 1:15 – “The time has come, he said.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Soul Detox: Coming Clean

SoulDetox-mailer(front)

In Soul Detox: Coming Clean we discuss the importance of recognizing our self-deception and the impact of self-examination in ridding ourselves of the spiritual toxins that invade our souls.  These are my sermons notes from the first in our series Soul Detox, based on the book Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel.  You can listen to my sermon online at the Adventure Church website.

Here are my sermon notes, with some comments:

Spiritual Pollution

Are you (your life) polluted with these toxins:  anger, apathy, laziness, rage, hate, greed, harshness, unforgiveness, bitterness, worry, anxiousness, depression, joylessness, distrust, etc.?  – Those are toxins infecting your soul.

Everything Matters

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.”

note:  a river does not become muddied and polluted because of just one “trash dump” into it.  Rather, it is a slow and steady combination of pollutions, some right into the river and some washed into it from upstream.  Our souls are muddied because of the slow and steady trash that we allow to be dumped into our souls:  what we watch, what we talk about, who we are around, what we read, who we listen to — all of those add up, and if they are toxic, they dump toxins into us that build up.

Coming Clean

Psalms 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

note:  spiritual problems have spiritual solutions!

1.  Recognize Your Self-Deception

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things …”

note:  it is easy to allow ourselves to be deceived because we don’t know what we don’t know.  At least admit that you might be in error about what you believe or don’t believe.

2.  Begin the Process of Self-Examination

(note:  examine your life for toxic behaviors, emotions, consumptions and influences)

You must be willing to call poison, poison

Psalms 36:2 “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”

note:  We can excuse so much and so many things in our lives.  Be careful if you are saying any of these things:

“I don’t have a problem with this”

“It’s really no big deal”

“This is just how I cope”

“I’m not as bad as most people.”

“I can quit anytime I want”

“This is jut how I am.”

note:  if you are saying those things, you may be “excusing” a toxin

Listen to God’s Word

note:  as you read and study the Bible, the Word will “show” you what is toxic for your life.  Is it your speech, unforgiveness, sexual purity, roles in marriage, what it means to love your neighbor, theology?

Listen to God’s People

Proverbs 15:31-21 “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”

note:  Christian friends, your pastor and your Bible teachers are ways in which God speaks truth to you about toxins that are influencing you.

Listen to God’s Voice

note: God speaks through His Word and through His people, but if we don’t want to, or refuse to, “hear God” through those ways, we must remember that God also speaks to us through our circumstances.  If your circumstance is “out of control”, “full of drama”, or “always stressed and unhappy”, there is a good chance that God is allowing that circumstance to exist to show you a spiritual toxin in your life that is infecting your soul.  Pay attention to it!

“Life to the Full”  (note:  Jesus wants us to have an abundant life, not just a life where we get by or a life where we struggle carrying a bunch of unnecessary, burdensome baggage.  Removing the spiritual toxins in our lives will allow us to live life to the full!)