Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Thousand Words

David objecting to his picture being taken

Georgia enjoying the snowstorm

Some friends visiting when I was scooping the driveway


Friday, February 27, 2009

Emotional Health

Sometimes I think the reason I run is for fitness. To feel good and stay healthy.

Other times I think I run for competition. Not necessarily with others, but with myself. Can I keep getting better as I get older? Can I push myself harder? Can I train smarter?

Other times I think I run for friendship. I've met great friends in the past few years. It's easy to get to know somebody when you are running beside them for 60 minutes or 120 minutes. No cell phones or Internet or distractions. Just talking and listening and laaughing.

Other times I run for emotional health. I don't know why or how, but running generally clears my mind. It helps me think more clearly, puts things in perspective, and and be creative.
This afternoon's run was for emotional health. I had a long day and wasn't feeling the best. At 5:00 p.m. instead of going home, I stopped at the gym for an hour. I was going to take a few more days off from running for my sprained ankle, but needed a run for to clear my mind. My left foot felt okay. Everything else felt great. I messed around with the speed and incline on the treadmill. I didn't push it too hard. 8 miles in 53:53 or 6:44 per mile. It was very warm at the gym. I worked up a great sweat and more importantly, a rested mind.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Before and After

David got his haircut yesterday. Here are the before and after pictures. In the 3rd picture he is standing on a stool trying to gather M & Ms from the candy jar. That was new as of yesterday.

This week's message is about the concept of release. Sometimes in life we hold on too tighly to things we would be better off letting go. Some of these things are obvious like addictions and self-destructive habits. Others are more subtle: like power and resources. I'll share that holding on to certain things in life prevent us from recieving other things that are of far greater value.

Here is a prayer guide put together by Vikki O'Hara:

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” -Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton

“…we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;
but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires…” -1 Timothy 6:7-9

“We value uncluttered lives, which free us to love boldly, give generously, and serve joyfully.” -Core Value of the Brethren in Christ Denomination

“Simplicity is the only thing that can sufficiently reorient our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.” -Richard Foster

“God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work….and you will be enriched in every way for your great generosity…” -2 Corinthians 9:7-8, 11

“There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, pure, simple and useful life.” -Booker T. Washington

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Matthew 6:19-21

Training Update:

Still resting my foot.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I was thinking about writing a nice little article on Lent. When I was starting my research, I ran into this little snippet from Frederick Buechner that gave the best description of Lent that I have ever read or heard. Realizing that I couldn't improve on it, I'd thought I'd share it with you:

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of the year's income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone in the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn't, which side would you get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five seconds or less?

Of all the things you have done in life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

Training Update:

Nothing. Still sick and still injured.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marathon Pacing Strategy

A few days ago a friend of mine posted a well-thought out strategy to finish a sub 3 hour marathon. I sent him this response:

1 to 2 miles - Start off at an easy pace. Very proud I am running with restraint and playing it smart.

3 to 7 miles - Pick it up and run at a 2:45 pace thinking that this just might be the day when all the stars and the moons are aligned.

8 to 12 miles - Maintain the faster pace, but notice that it is getting a little more difficult.

13 miles - Multiply my half marathon time by 2 and add a few minutes because I'm not feeling the best. Realize that not only I am well under three hour pace, but also under PR pace.

14 miles - Decide to run a little easier until 20 and then I'll push the last 10K.

15 miles - Realize that I may have been a bit assertive with the pacing.

16 miles - Realize that I am a complete idiot.

17 miles - See if I can stick with the gray haired guy who just passed me.

17.1 miles - Let the gray haired guy go and start wondering where my next marathon will be and how my pacing will be different.

17.2 miles - Be thankful that Amber and I have had a nice vacation and be grateful that we both got away for the weekend.

18.85 miles - Just one more lap around Lake Zorinsky to go. A PR is still in the bag and I'll still have room to improve next time.

20 miles - 10K to go. No PR today, but sub three hours is still a lock.

21 to 24 miles. - I have lost the ability to remember anything or do math in my head. Since I'm not walking, sub 3 hours should still be in the cards.

24 miles - 9 laps around a high school track. I can do it.

25.2 miles - 1 mile to go. I have regained the ability to do math since multiplication is no longer required. I just need to add. If I can do a sub 8 minute mile I am good to go. I can do all things through God who gives me strength.

25.5 miles - I'm sticking with the young woman in the running skirt who just passed me. She seems like a good running partner.

25.55 miles - So much for that idea.

26 miles - Less than one lap around the track. I still have 2 minutes left.

26.1 miles - I can either try to outsprint the kid wearing long basketball shorts or throw-up. I let the kid go.

26.2 miles - Sub 3 hours. Realized that I had a few more seconds to spare than I thought because of chip timing. Look for a person pushing a wheel chair. Vow to quit running.

Training Update:

Nothing today. Injured (sprained ankle leftover from trail race) and sick (still having stomach issues).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Civil Religion

The following is from Keith Drury. I think it is a very interesting post about civil religion.

The greatest blessing of the Barak Obama Presidency may be delivering Evangelicals from a tendency toward civil religion. 94% of white Evangelicals voted against Obama so it might be easier to find deliverance under a President evangelicals didn’t elect.

By civil religion I mean a kind of nationalism that poses a universal god-above-all-gods whose name is “god” or “the Almighty” or Providence” who has a special relationship with our nation and has given us a special calling to spread freedom, democracy and our way of life across the world with missionary zeal. Civil religion is "an institutionalized collection of sacred beliefs about the American nation" which uses symbols and language of religion to persuade citizens to support and sacrifice for national policy.

In civil religion the state is sanctified by quasi-religious symbols and language. It offers sacred symbols (flag) sacred text (Constitution), sacred places (Gettysburg, Potomac River, Arlington) temples (‘hallowed halls’ of congress), and sacred rituals (the inauguration). It integrates real religious symbols and rituals too (Bible, prayer) and presents nationalism in such a way that a nation’s citizens believe in the national god that is above and beyond their own religion’s gods. It is all done in a way that when a President mentions “Providence” leading our nation we think he really means Yahweh or the Holy Trinity but he doesn’t. In its worst form civil religion presents the god-of-America as the god-above-all-gods, the sort of commander-in-chief of all religions who presides over all religions and has a special calling to America.

Some Evangelicals consider civil religion as innocuous as Israel did its Baal worship—“just something you do here in this land.” It is the Anabaptists like the Mennonites who have been the noisiest at scolding us for civil religion. They label it outright idolatry—a temptation to give fidelity to another god besides the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I think the coming years might be a good time for a discussion about civil religion among evangelicals. I think this because Obama is probably the most skilled priest of civil religion in my entire lifetime. Since most Evangelicals already distrust Obama maybe we’ll be more careful about swallowing this “god” who is not really the One True God but a competitor for our faith and fidelity—the god of civil religion is a nationalized totem-god designed to unite citizens. He is a god who never has any judgment or condemnation for us but faithfully sanctifies the actions of the state and calls for a loyalty that places “no other god before me.”

Maybe the coming years could turn out to be a blessing for Evangelicals—we might rethink our tendency toward to civil religion and thus cast off this competing god?

Interesting stuff to think about.

For those of you really wanting to dig deep into the idea of civil religion, this article by Robert Bellah is probably the most widely read.

Training Update:

10 miles easy at Lake Zorinsky in about 80 minutes. I'm tired and seem to have resprained my ankle. I'll probably need to be off running for a few days.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Am I Really a Christian?

The talk this morning was on how do we know if we are a Christian or not. Interesting stuff. You can listen here. Here are my notes. I didn't follow them very closely:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. -Romans 5:8

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. –Matthew 7:13-14

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. -John 5:24

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. -1 John 1:9

Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.
-Isaiah 1:18

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
-Psalm 103:12

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. -Luke 15:22-24

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Corinthians 5:17

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
–Revelation 3:20


  1. I remember when I invited Jesus into my heart.
  2. I believe my sins are forgiven.
  3. I experienced lasting change after my decision to follow God. This is
    coupled with a desire to follow Him.
  4. I live with joy.
  5. If I died today I know I would go to heaven.

Training Update:

I ran with Joe and Scott today in the hills. 10 miles easy in 75 minutes. I think I may have re injured my foot. I'll give it a try tomorrow and see how it goes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trek Up The Tower

The Water's Edge won the team division at the Trek Up the Tower this morning. We guess marathon training and trail running works for climbing lots of stairs. 1,000 climbers from 73 teams participated.

1. 15:24 The Water's Edge (5:08 per climber)
2. 16:06 Mutual of Omaha (5:22 per climber)
3. 17:07 Gallup (5:43 per climber)
4. 17:29 Omaha Police Department (5:50 per climber)

This is a tough race. Although it only lasts 5 minutes, there is nothing quite like it. My thighs were done by 15 floors. My heart and lungs were maxed out by 20 floors. I struggled for the next 10 floors and gutted out the last 12 floors to make it to the top of the 42 story building.

Note to self: train on the stairs before next year's race.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Keep Your Eyes on the Road

A few years ago I ran a marathon with Dean Karnazes who ran a marathon for 50 consecutive days in all 50 states. The run I did was in Des Moines. This video is of his marathon in Washington state. The lesson from a guy who ran this marathon with Dean is simple: keep your eye on the road.

The same is true with life: Keep your eyes on what is in front of you and on God who is with us.

My training update is the same as yesterday: my foot is still injured and even if it wasn't, I had no time to run.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now That You are Near

Sore foot. So no running. Not that I had time anyway. Busy morning, afternoon, and night. Here is another of my favorite songs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


David and his new scooter

A sense of fear is spreading across the land, reaching very serious levels. Circuit City, Linens ‘n Things, KB Boys, and CompUSA are all in bankruptcy. The stock market isn’t bouncing back. Neither are home prices. People are losing jobs. Chrysler and General Motors are seeking more federal loans. As taxpayers we are now stock holders. Times are tough and no one seems to have an answer. It is impossible to turn on a television news program or read a newspaper without hearing or reading some sort of bad news.

Historically recessions happen. I vaguely remember the recession of the late 70s and early 80s. Growing up in northwest Iowa, I still remember those two words: “Farm Crisis.” I also remember the recession of the early 90s. It happened right when I was graduating from college and made finding a job very difficult. And we are in a recession right now.

I was thinking of advice for Christians during times such as this. First, don’t be anxious or fearful. Fear is never a Christian response. God tells us not to be afraid more than God tells us anything else. Second, keep in perspective how blessed we are as a people. Third, realize that our hope isn’t in a President or a government or a business or a pension. Our hope is in God.

Reinhold Niebuhr, the great theologian of the previous century, was talking to Harry Emerson Fosdick, the renowned preacher at Riverside Church in New York City. Niebuhr was a pessimist; Fosdick, an optimist. They were talking about the future of civilization and agreed that there was not much light; things looked dismal and bleak. They concluded with Niebuhr saying to Fosdick, “If you will be a pessimist with me, decade by decade, I will be an optimist with you, century by century.”

I like that conversation. Because human beings exercise their God-given freedom and can choose to use their power for evil, we sometimes are made pessimists about the present. But because God has done, is doing it and will do it…take human deeds meant for evil and turn them into blessings…and because God always has the last word, we can and should be optimists for the future. The worst thing we can do is believe that the present problems of the world can’t be overcome.

So, let’s not panic. Let’s keep a realistic perspective of how blessed we are. Let’s respond--as we are able--to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the hurting, and give to those in need. As our long-term hope is in the Lord, let’s pay attention to how God might use us to intervene to those who are facing short-term adversity.

Often I close my scribblings with the phrase: the best is yet to come… I believe this. I really do.

Training Update:

It was too cold and windy for my liking today, so I kept it indoors on the treadmill at the gym. I did 9 miles in an hour. I started off slower (7.0 mph / 8:34 per mile) and gradually worked my way up to 12.0 mph / 5:00 mile for the last half mile.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mighty to Save

I started running again today. The left foot was and is pretty sore, but I did 9.5 pretty easy miles - mostly around Lake Zorinsky. I am going back to Kansas City in July and do the 15 mile trail race. This time I will finish on my terms.

I downloaded this song and listened to it during the run: Mighty to Save. I love it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I have been reading lists of the top Presidents in the last week. Here's my Top 10:
  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. Franklin Roosevelt
  4. Teddy Reesevelt
  5. Thomas Jefferson
  6. Ronald Reagan
  7. Harry Truman
  8. John Kennedy
  9. Woodrow Wilson
  10. Dwight Eisenhower
Of course I don't know really what I'm talking about, but I figured that I can't really go wrong with Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. To all the Presidents who gave so much of themselves, thank you. It's got to be the toughest job there is.

No running today. My left ankle is still hurt from the fall on Saturday. I did do some walking and playing and Coco Key Resort. We had lots of fun.

Benjamin climbing across the pool

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Happens When We Die?

This morning I spoke about what happens when we die. You can listen here.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” -Revelation 21:1-8

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10

A wise person thinks a lot about death. –Ecclesiastes 7:4

1. Death from a factual view
  • Death is inevitable
  • Death is physical
  • Death is unsearchable
  • Death is the end

This view brings despair.

2. Death from an emotional view

This view may think something like: “There’s got to be something beyond death.” This view brings confusion.

3. Death from a biblical view

What is Death?

Sin – Temporary separation from God

For the wages of sin is death. –Romans 6:23

Hell – Permanent separation from God

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. -Matthew 13:47-50

What is Heaven?

Grace – Living in God’s presence

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 6:23

Heaven – Permanently living in God’s presence

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. -Romans 5:20-21

A Glimpse of Heaven

The presence of God…

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going. -John 14:1-4

Beyond our understanding…

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. -1 Corinthians 2:9

Saying Hello…

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. -1 Corinthians 13:12

A Feast…

Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return." -Matthew 25:1-13

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Psycho Wyco 20.7 Mile Trail Race

Happy Valentine's Day from David

This hill is pretty typical of the landscape at the Psycho Wyco trail races. I ran the 20.7 mile race this morning. I got 4th place with a time of 3:19:06.

This is a shot of me fairly early in the race. Probably about 4 miles or so. I started off pretty slow and was moving good starting at about 3 miles or so. I passed a bunch of people between 3 and 7 miles. I was running fast down a steep hill at 7 miles when I stepped on a big rock that was covered by leaves. My foot twisted hard, I fell forward, and landed on another rock with my left shoulder. I walked for about a minute or so and then tried jogging. It was painful but I kept at it. The ankle got better between 8 and 10 miles. After that it progressively got worse. I hobbled through the last 10 miles. My split the first half was 1:28 and was 1:50 for the 2nd half. I had planned on running even splits, but with my injured foot, that wasn't even close to happening today.

Anyway, I got a nice medal and a pair of muddy shoes for my efforts. It was a great race. I'll be back next year to run that 2nd lap on my terms.

David, Jeff, and I hustled back to Omaha to spend the rest of Valentine's Day with our families.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I drove to Kansas City this afternoon in the snow with Jeff and Dave. The 3 hour trip was close to 5 hours. Once we got to Kansas City, the roads were fine. We enjoyed our prerace meal downtown at Jack Stack BBQ, a true Kansas City BBQ institution. We made it back to the room in time to watch Monk. We got to bed early for the race tomorrow morning.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I was busy working all day, but Amber was kind enough to take pictures of Benjamin and two of his friends at the zoo.

Tonight at our Cub Scout meeting I was covering the section of the Wolf book about God. I asked this high-energy group of 2nd grade boys to come up with a definition of faith. Here is there answer: A trusting hope. OK...there are theologians who have worked a lot more than 5 minutes and didn't come up with a definition that is so concise and compelling. These are the same kids who 10 minutes later were shooting each other with Nerf bazookas. Crazy.
Training Update:
2 mile warm-up
1K at marathon pace (about 4 minutes)
600 meters jogging
2K at marathon pace (about 8 minutes)
600 meters jogging
3K at marathon pace (about 12 minutes)
800 meters jogging
4K at marathon pace (about 16 minutes)
1 mile cool-down
Great morning for a run!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


This weekend I'm going to talk about what happens when we die. Lots of people have thoughts on this topic.

The popular folk theology is that heaven is the destination for virtually everybody and it is pretty much whatever we want it to be. Evangelicals focus on heaven and hell--some will end up in one place and others will end up in another place. Catholic theology adds purgatory to the mix. As I talk Sunday about what happens when we die I must talk about how we live. In living and in dying, God wants to make us new. Here is this Sunday's column:

Most of us like new things. I like the smell of new cars, although I have never owned one. We have these friends who recently bought a new house. I went over there one night and blessed it for them. It had a new smell to it and I could tell that they loved it. For my birthday, a few weeks ago, I got a few new toys and a couple of new shirts. I love the feel of new running shoes. The kids love new games and balls and toys. I have a feeling that you like new stuff too. We all like new stuff.

A few weeks ago Amber decided to paint some magnetic paint on one of our walls. The paint was black. She had to apply five or six coats to make it work. After that, I painted the wall the color of the room so we didn't have a black wall. After a few coats of brown, we had a magnetic wall that looked like the rest of the downstairs - except it looked even better. It had been three years since we painted the downstairs. With a 150 pound dog and two kids-ages 7 and 2-the environment has not been kind to the lower three feet of our walls. I wondered how it would look if I painted some of the spots where Georgia laid against the wall and the kids ran their sometimes sticky and sometimes dirty hands against the wall. I started with the spot where Georgia usually lays. It was absolutely amazing. I didn't realize that gradually over three years the once light brown wall was now black. Way too much time later (I have got to be the slowest painter in the world), our downstairs had a new, fresh coat of paint and one wall even had a new color. It looks better than the day we moved in!

As I was getting ready for this morning's sermon early in the week, the first thing I did was write down all the Bible passages off the top of my head that had to do with what happens when we die. I came up with about 15 or 20 and then stopped. Then I went to my trusty Logos Bible software program and did some more searching. The passage that was at the top of both lists was: Revelation 21. I read through the passage a number of times in different English translations and I even read it in the original Greek. Verse 5 kept jumping off the page at me: And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new."

New. There is that word again. God makes everything new. When we are conceived, God makes us new. The day we are born, God makes us new. When we die, God makes us new. And, each day, the master painter is interested in touching up years of mistakes and imperfections making us new. Let God make you new today and know that this day can be the first day of the rest of your life because God is making everything new!

The best is yet to come...


No running today. Long day at work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

For Preachers Only

Two days ago I spoke about Christianity and its relationship to other world religions. I didn't think my message was all that great. It felt more like a lecture to me and less like a sermon. The interesting thing is that I've received more feedback from this message than anything other message I've ever given.

The common reply wasn't about the quality of the message, but the content. It was kind of like: "I've always wondered about this. Thanks for talking about this."

I was thinking a series on Christianity and World Religions might look something like this:
  1. Christianity and American Religions: A look at the Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Mormons.
  2. Christianity and the Historic World Religions: A look at the Hindus, Buddhists, and people of the Jewish Faith
  3. Christianity and Islam: A look at the world's largest religions.
  4. Methodism (or whatever your denomination is) and Catholicism
  5. Is Jesus the Only Way? The Four Views of Salvation (see a book with that title by Dennis Okholm)
  6. Living as a Christian in a Pluralistic World
I think I'll do this in the late summer or maybe in the fall.

Training Update:

2 mile warm-up

2.5 miles at 6:15 pace
4 x 800 at 5:30 pace
2.5 miles at 6:15 pace

1 mile cool-down

Monday, February 9, 2009


Not much time today to run or write. I did an easy 6.2 miles at about 7:15 per mile on the treadmill after the kids went to bed.

I usually listen to music when I run inside. I was listening to Persona by the Blue Man Group tonight. It is a great song to run to, but is very insightful regarding American culture.

Every morning I put it on.
I walk outside and I am gone.
And I don't seem to mind anymore.
I can't think what it was like before.
I wore it all the time.

In the evening I take it off.
But there's another one underneath.
And I can't seem to find the bottom of the stack.
I just might lose my mind and never get it back.
But at least I'll get inside.

There's a feeling that I get sometimes.
It's so small that it's easy to hide.
It's like a howling voice from the distant past.
It seems I've got no choice when it comes to this.
It's building up inside.

It's interesting that God has created us to be a unique person, but many of us choose to wear the persona that the world expects from us and not the persona that God dreams for us. Discover who God has created you to be! Be who God has created you to be!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

World Religions

I had an interesting sermon this morning on the Christian response to other religions. At least it was interesting to me. Based on the email and feedback I have got in the last 12 hours, others thought it was very interesting as well. Maybe we'll devote 4 to 6 weeks to the topic later in the year. I had to just skim the surface on many of the questions that were asked. You can listen here.

What is Scientology and why is Hollywood so addicted?
  • Scientologists believe that people are immortal spiritual beings who have forgotten their true nature.
  • They are reborn until they attain infinite survival by learning to understand the world.
  • Salvation is achieved by learning to understand the world.
  • Until that salvation happens, people are reborn and reborn again and again.
  • Developed in the 1950s
  • L. Ron Hubbard
  • Scientologists generally believe that modern psychiatry is destructive
  • Reincarnation is common.
  • They do not believe in Jesus or in heaven.
  • The Church of Scientology headquarters are located in Los Angeles where the largest population of Scientologists is located.
  • This population does include celebrities.
  • It is a myth that most people in Hollywood are mostly Scientologists.
  • Scientology does have some high profile people, but these people are a small percentage of the population.

What is the basic belief system of the Jehovah Witnesses? Do they believe in Christ? Why don’t they believe in blood transfusions? Why don’t they believe in holidays, including birthdays?

  • The Jehovah Witnesses consider the Bible primary for their teachings and practices.
  • Their theology is much different from traditional Christian theology which has led to many Christian denominations calling them a sect or a cult.
  • In medical ethics, Jehovah Witnesses do not accept blood based on Acts 15:29, “You must abstain from eating food offered to idols and from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals.”
  • Holidays such as Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Christmas are not celebrated, as Jehovah Witnesses believe these customs come from ancient pagan religions.
  • National holidays are not observed by Jehovah's Witnesses because they believe it compromises their loyalty.
  • Birthday celebrations are also avoided as days that lead to feelings of "self-importance".

Is a Mormon a Christian

  • No.
  • Some Mormons would have a different perspective than I have, but virtually all Christian thinkers would not consider Mormons to be Christians.
  • The biggest difference is found in the theology derived from works such as the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price.
  • Revelation 22:18 - “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.

What are the similarities and differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church?

  • This is the most common question I received.
  • Catholics and Methodist are the same religion. We are both Christians.
  • Catholics are the largest Christian denomination.
  • Methodism is the third largest denomination.
  • The split between The Church of England and the Roman Catholic was more of a political split than a theological split. Henry 8th was excommunicated by Pope Paul 3rd in 1534. The issue was that Paul would not give Henry 8 an annulment.
  • In the 1700s, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, was removed from the Church of England because he preached outside the walls of church buildings. To the laborers and the coal miners. The Church of England didn’t think this was dignified and removed Wesley as a clergy.
  • I want you to hear something: There are more similarities than differences.
    Of all the Protestant denominations, United Methodists are one of the closest to the Roman Catholic Church.
  • We agree on probably 99% of things.
  • Forgiveness, Prayer, Serving, Children, the poor, etc…
  • There are some differences and some differences are obvious:
  1. The presence of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church
  2. The dissimilarity of the role and rights of clergy: I can get married and have children and I’m considered to be one of you.
  3. Emphasis on the Word for United Methodists
  4. Emphasis on Communion for Roman Catholics
  5. Views on marriage, annulments, and remarriage.

One of the more subtle, but major differences is where the source of theology is derived from: Roman Catholics derive theology from church history and Scripture. United Methodists place the Bible as primary and use tradition and history as secondary sources.

  1. Catholics would likely say their doctrine and theology has been refined in community over time.
  2. Methodists would most likely say our doctrine and theology is based on Scripture. We are always trying to return to Scripture.

Another major difference is the United Methodist belief of salvation by faith apart from works. Roman Catholics generally deny this doctrine.

  1. You are saved by grace through faith. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2:8
  2. Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? –James 2:20

If Jewish people are the chosen people why do we think their religious beliefs are wrong?

  • Christians and Jewish persons agree on many beliefs.
  • We share the Old Testament (or Tanakh).
  • The obvious difference is that Christians believe that Jesus was fully human and fully God and that he is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • It is a small religion. Less than .25% of the world’s population.

Is Hinduism a practice, a way of life, or a religion?

  • Hinduism is a religion.
  • It is the most diverse and third largest religion in the world.
  • The principle of dharma is key to Hinduism.
  • Dharma is the life that is upheld and supported by travelling a virtuous path.

What are essentials of Islam?

  • They, like Christianity, are a monotheistic religion.
  • Jesus was a not God – only a prophet.
  • Many in the Bible are mentioned in the Koran.
  • This is the world’s second largest religion.
  • Most are not anti-Western radicals.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Does this mean that only Christians can be with God when they die? What happens to people of other faiths or no faith?

Second most common question. Here are the three views of salvation:

Universal or Plural

  • All paths are equally valid to the Ultimate Reality
  • Religious people throughout the world are pretty much saying the same thing, just in a different language.
  • Many in our culture who ascribe to this.
  • What is true for me is true for me and what is true for you is true for you.
  • This is the one of the three views of salvation that is most difficult to defend.
  • It doesn’t honor all religions. Most Moslems would not find it honoring to hear that what they believe is no more or less true than what a Hindu believes.
  • It assumes all religions are valid.
  • Not biblical - Jesus talked about heaven and hell.

Restrictive or Exclusive

  • All who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior will be condemned to hell.
  • There are no exceptions to this rule.
  • This view is widely held by those in Evangelical, Conservative, and Fundamentalist Churches
  • It is black and white
  • According to this view, 2/3’s of the world’s population will not receive salvation.
  • When you start to make exceptions for group why not for the next group?
  • Why would a loving God create somebody to live pretty much a miserable life, die a painful death, and then be condemned eternally.


  • A middle ground.
  • God is at work with all people everywhere.
  • Jesus Christ is the most complete picture we have of God.
  • They are not universalists.
  • They are not restrictivists.
  • They believe in a heaven and a hell.
  • But they also believe heaven is probably more accessible than to just 33% of the world’s population.

How do we get along and respond to people of other religions without appearing arrogant?

It depends.

  • Who you are.
  • Who is the person you are relating to?
  • What does the other person believe?
  • How well do you know the person?
  • Love, serve, forgive, pray, give, listen, encourage, etc...
Training Update

I did an easy 10 miles in the hills at 7:30 per mile with Jimmy, Bob, Chris, and Joe.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Long Run

The long runs have started as I get ready for Boston. This is the toughest and most time consuming part of the training. This morning I ran in a group of 5 runners. They are always easier to do with others. It was 10 miles out and 10 miles back. Miles 5 to 15 were very hilly with miles 7 and 10 being mostly uphill. I got it done without too much trouble. 20 miles at about 7:25 per mile.

Sometimes life is like a long run. We all have events that provide us stress for long durations of time. They are hard when they are happening. Sometimes we want to quit or at least wish we were somewhere else in life. They also take a while to recover from. But they can also make us stronger: spiritually, mentally and physically.

When you are facing one of the long runs of life: know that you don't have to go through it alone and know that you will come out stronger.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Very busy today. I had a funeral this morning, finished up getting ready for Sunday this afternoon, and led a worship service at a nursing home later in the afternoon. The highlight of the day was watching Benjamin sing some of the old hymns with the residents of the nursing home.

The closest I got to exercise was pushing some of the residents, in their wheelchairs, to dinner.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Irony is the difference between what one would expect to happen and what actually happens. The Greek word for irony is εἰρωνεία which probably best means incongruity.

A bit of irony happened in our neighborhood recently. Lamars Donuts opened in a nearby strip mall last summer.

They make a mean donut. There is no way they can be healthy though. So, in a bit of irony, Curves will be opening next to to Lamar's. Women in southwest Omaha will be able to burn 500 calories in 30 minutes and then go eat 500 calories in 30 seconds.

Consider it irony that Jesus died so that we might have life.

Another easy run today. I did 11 miles in the hills at
7:30 per mile.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

World Religions, Part 2

Here is my column for Sunday as we explore world religions:

On February 4th at about 2:00 in the afternoon, the world population was 6,758,379,337 people. That is a lot of people. In fact, just in the short time that you have been reading my scribbling, the population of the world has increased. The world’s population is expected to increase by 1.188% in 2009.

We live in a diverse world. Just over 13% of the world’s population speaks Mandarin. About 5% speak Spanish. Just over 4% speak English. There are 266 countries. The average person can expect to live 66 years. Women a little longer. Men a little less. 2,168,433,600 people have a cell phone. I thought that the number would be smaller than that, but my intuition has been wrong before and will certainly be wrong again. There are about 50,000 airports. 85 million passengers flew through Atlanta in 2008.

It is no surprise that the world has great diversity in religion as well. Christianity at 33.32% of the world’s population is by far the largest religion. Next are the Muslims at 21.01%. Hindus at 13.26% and Buddhists at 5.84% are the only other religion representing over 1% of the world’s population. Jewish people make up 0.23% of the world’s population. Non-religious people make up 14% and various other religions are about 12% of the world’s population. Christianity is the largest religion. In raw numbers, it is also the religion that is growing the fastest. But, Christians are not a majority of the population, or even close.

In Nebraska, the religious diversity that we see is more likely to be diversity within the Christian faith: some are Catholics, some are Methodist, some are Lutheran, etc…. Even within the Lutheran Church there are four or five different varieties. The largest change in population in Nebraska has been the growth of the Hispanic population. Most Hispanics are Christians.

But times are changing. Advances in technology, media, and mobility have made the world a smaller place. Most of us have more contact with people of other religions than we did ten or twenty years ago. We will certainly have more contact with people of other religions in the next ten or twenty years than we do today. Because of the number of people of people who worship with us each week, it comes as no surprise that people of other religions and people of no religion are worshipping among us on this morning.

Religious diversity is a heavy topic that can’t be covered even partially in 30 minutes on a Sunday morning. I have a feeling we will be devoting 4 to 6 weeks in the near future to further examine what other religions believe and practice and simultaneously explore what Christians believe and practice. But for this morning, for those of us who are Christians, I hope that we will be able to better understand other religions and better relate to followers of other religions. For those who are not yet Christians, I pray that you will see the beauty, power, and possibilities in the Christian faith.

Training Update:

10.25 miles in the hills at an easy pace: about 7:30 per mile or so. Nice day. Shorts and sunglasses.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

World Religions

I have an interesting sermon this week on Christianity and it's relationship to other world religions. I asked people to come up with questions they wanted responses to. I probably won't be able to cover all the questions in 30 minutes, but here are some of things I'll be thinking about:
  • Why in the Catholic Church, can't the priest get married but in the other denominations and religions the pastors can?
  • Do Jewish people go to heaven?
  • How did Islam start? Aren’t its origins in the Bible?
  • What is the basic belief system of the Jehovah Witnesses? Do they believe in Christ? Why don’t they believe in blood transfusions? Why don’t they believe in holidays, including birthdays?
  • Is Christianity is the one true religion? Does that mean that all the other religions are not true?
  • Can you be a Christian and believe and/or practice things from other religions?
  • Will people who follow other religions go to hell?
  • Why are there so many different religions that claim to be right?
  • What are the major differences between the different Christian denominations?
  • What is tolerance?
  • How do we get along and respond to people of other religions without appearing arrogant?
  • Why do some religions advocate violence? I cannot understand how some extremists justify violence against another human.
  • Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Does this mean that only Christians can be with God when they die? What happens to people of other faiths or no faith?
  • Can a person be practice Hinduism and Christianity at the same time? Is it a practice, a way of life, or a religion? Is it in conflict with Christianity?
  • How should we live alongside those of the Muslim faith? Should we pray for them? If so, how should we be praying?
  • As a Catholic when we got married me promised (we even signed papers) that we would raise our kids Catholic. How do I get over that guilt?
  • What are the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Christianity?
  • Why do Catholics feel that Protestants can not get into heaven even though we’re also Christians?
  • How, if at all, is the Islamic concept of “jihad” related to what in Christianity is sometimes called "spiritual warfare" or the war against the flesh?
  • A number of religions claim the same things. How can we know which of their claims are true and which claims are false (or at least heavily embellished)?
  • Is a Mormon a Christian?
  • How do Taoism or Hinduism relate to Christianity?
  • Jehovah's' Witnesses believe that only believe 144,000 people can go to heaven. Assuming it's full, where do they think they're going when they die?
    What do the ordinary every day believers of Islam think about the suicide bombers and terrorists?
  • What is Scientology and why is Hollywood so addicted?
  • What is purgatory?
  • If the Jews are the chosen people why do we think their religious beliefs are wrong?

I had some time to think about these questions during my run today. Tough workout, but I got it done:

2 mile warm-up

2 miles at marathon pace in the hills

1 mile easy running

4 x 800 meters at 5K pace in the flats with 400 meters recovery between reps

1 mile easy running

2 miles at marathon pace in the hills

Monday, February 2, 2009


Thanks to everybody for their birthday wishes. I had a great day - mostly spent with family. Your thoughts and prayers made a great day even better.

I did a 12.5 mile easy run in the afternoon in the hills. I was probably doing about 7:30 per mile but didn't wear a watch.

And, I didn't see my shadow. So winter is over!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

39 Things

39 Things I've Learned (or at least should have learned) in 39 Years

Listen here.

  1. I have learned that when I was younger I thought I knew everything, but I didn't. The older I get, the less I know. I can’t wait to see what God is going to teach me each day.
  2. I have learned that life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
  3. I have learned that love is not an adjective; it is a verb.
  4. I have learned that humor is not the opposite of seriousness; humor is the opposite of despair.
  5. I have learned that the marriage relationship is the most important human relationship that I have.
  6. I have learned that ready, fire, aim is usually a whole lot better than ready, aim, fire.
  7. I have learned that contentment is a whole lot better than happiness.
  8. I have learned that money is not the key to contentment.
  9. I have learned that forgiveness is the key to contentment. Forgiving and living is better than remembering and resenting.
  10. I have learned that our life always expresses our dominant thoughts. It’s kind of like this: our thoughts become our words which become our actions which become our habits which become our character which becomes our destiny.
  11. I have learned to learn from my mistakes. Or at least I should have picked up on this by now.
  12. I have learned that if life hands you lemons make lemonade.
  13. I have learned that the journey of the thousand miles begins with a single step.
  14. I have learned that you’ll never be able to tell someone how much they mean to you once they’re gone. If you love somebody tell them today.
  15. I have learned that big dreams lead to a big life. What are you dreaming about?
  16. I have learned that life is most livable and most enjoyable in the company of others.
  17. I have learned about the joy of Christ's love: From the outside looking in, it's hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it's hard to explain.
  18. I have learned that the function of prayer is not necessarily to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
  19. I have learned one of the most important things I can do is encourage others.
  20. I have learned that time is God’s gift to us and what we do with time is our gift to God. Manage your time or your time will manage you.
  21. I have learned that I should love others unconditionally as my dog loves me.
  22. I have learned that the end is not death; the end is life.
  23. I have learned that laughter from a child is precious and priceless. And I have learned that laughter from an adult is almost as precious and almost as priceless.
  24. I have learned that to risk is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to risk is to lose oneself. What are you risking?
  25. I have learned that we can’t change much of what happens in life. We can only change our reaction to the world around us. Pain in life is inevitable; suffering is optional.
  26. I have learned that we can’t change most of the people around us. We can only change our reaction to those people.
  27. I have learned that just because two people argue, it doesn't mean they don't love each other and just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do love each other.
  28. I have learned to run my own race.
  29. I have learned that it’s alright to be angry but never to be cruel.
  30. I have learned that the people I admire the most are the people who are the most humble. Humility is the ability to see that you and everybody else are fully human and fully a child of God. It is thinking of yourself and all others in pretty much the same way.
  31. I have learned not to forget to love myself.
  32. I have learned that God makes saints out of sinners. God has always been and will always be in the business of changing lives. Few things in life are as beautiful as a changed life.
  33. I have learned that I am closest to God and my life makes most sense when I read the Bible daily.
  34. I have learned that we look most like Jesus when we serve others.
  35. I have learned that life is best when I find time to rest in God’s love and simply find time to be still in God’s presence.
  36. I have learned to live life to the fullest because I don’t know when life is going to end.
  37. I have learned that life is not a destination, but a journey.
  38. I have learned that I would rather fail as pastor than fail as a father.
  39. I have learned that God loves me.