Thursday, April 30, 2009

Run to Win... Pt. 3

I can't tell you how prepared I was to run (with the exception of physically... oops!). I had purchased all the right gear and had it all laid out the day before so I wouldn't forget anything. I had my iPod with the songs strategically placed. My GPS watch had a fresh battery. My sunglasses were clean.

That morning I got up and stretched one more time. I measured my meals carefully, with every calorie consumed on a schedule. Then came the deodorant (which my wife expressed didn't take!), the sunscreen, and the vaseline on the rub-prone areas.

As I was doing all of this, I thought of the armor of God. What if we were this intentional about going into battle every day? I was fighting against a mountain, but we are fighting against the spiritual forces of evil. The stakes are too high for us to just wander into battle. Put on the full armor of God today. Don't be ignorant of his schemes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Run to Win... Pt. 2

It is Thursday night and my calves still haven't completely loosened up. Monday I could hardly walk they hurt so bad. I should have listened (to advice and to my calves).

I read a suggestion the day before the race that you should stop and stretch your calves at the top of the hill so that they don't cramp up on the downhill. After falling behind my intended time to the summit, I didn't want to take the minute or two to stretch my calves to lose even more time. The entire 4.5 mile descent, my calves were on the brink of cramping. I had to try to run with my toes lifted in order to prevent the cramping. Who knows how much it cost me by not stopping to stretch!

I think there are many times when we feel like we can't slow down (or stop) to tend to an issue that is starting to create problems. What is it in me that makes me think that if I just keep moving, problems will take care of themselves? There are times to run through the pain, but more often than not, the damage caused by ignoring an issue is greater than the damage caused by stopping to deal with it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Run to Win... Pt. 1

I've always read the apostle Paul's encouragement to "run in such a way as to win" and appreciated the parallels between running a race and living the Christian life. Although I've spent many years living the Christian life, I have not competed in a race until Saturday. I told my kids (who were very sad that I knew I was going to "lose") that I was only competing against the clock. I did Robie Creek, the toughest half marathon in the Northwest. It was way tougher than I imagined. I can't describe how my calves feel right now! There are so many parallels spiritually that came to mind, that I am going to spend the week sharing them here.

It was 25 days ago that a friend emailed me and said that I could buy their extra Robie number if I wanted. At first I thought, "No way, there's no way I could do it." But I decided that since I had already been in decent shape, I would give it a shot. I am planning on doing the Sawtooth Relay in June and so this winter I actually tried to keep running and am in the best Spring shape of my life. Since I was in shape, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity. (Right now my legs are wishing I didn't.)

We are talking about Stewardship right now at The Pursuit and I am a firm believer in following God's principles in our finances because we are prepared for whatever opportunity may come. How many of us, if we would have been getting out of debt and putting money into savings, would be able to take advantage of the buying (or giving) opportunities that are around us? If I hadn't been running and biking over the last few months, I would have had to let this opportunity pass by. Trust God. Do what He says with your money and the next time that perfect opportunity pops up, you might be able to take advantage of it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

He Still Trusts Us...

We had no idea what to expect for Easter. We always have a huge burst and many always return. Last year we hit 900 people at Easter, which was incredible. We averaged that in regular attendance by the following September, which is a pattern for us. Literally, every year I have prayed that God would show us at Easter what our normal Sunday attendance would be by the following September. It has always been on the dot.

If this holds true this year, we are going to have 1600 in regular attendance come the fall. This was our sixth Easter as a young church. Here are the attendance numbers for each year: 66, 225, 475, 600, 900, 1600. Does that give you chills like it does me? It is startling what God is doing but by bringing 1600 yesterday He is showing us that He still trusts us with people, but it also means that we are going to have to raise our level of commitment and leadership to make sure that we continue to care for people in the body and reach out to those who are far from God.

Praise God for the privilege of being used by Him! Let's continue to pray, invest, invite and serve to the glory of God. He is worthy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What is God going to do...

It is a question I ask every Sunday that I preach. I know God will move but I never know how. Today could have gone either way. In our worship concert, in response to Isaiah's "Here am I, send me", I challenged the congregation to live as "sent" people. For us right now, that has to include giving generously. The Pursuit continues to struggle. I shared that The Pursuit is like the Titanic: We are going down. Except, people keep getting on because they love being on it! I said we are like a search and rescue boat that is taking on water but is still going full throttle because there are so many people to reach.

I challenged those that believe in what we are doing to give 3% more of their income if their income hasn't been cut. I figure that if teachers and state employees are being forced to cut their income, maybe some of us could voluntarily do it to further God's work here. I announced that I decided to take a 15% paycut until The Pursuit's "recession" is over. I shared the generosity of our staff, ten households that give an average of $456 a month (that's 12.4% of our income). In fact, we pay for three of our staff salaries just by ourselves! I encouraged people to visit if they wanted to give but didn't come prepared to do so. It could have gone either way, but it was readily apparent by the way we sang "We Shine" after we took our offering that God moved.

It isn't going to be one day, or even one month, that turns things around for us. But as I said to a few staff in the office afterwards, "If there was ever a group of people that is so passionate about God that I would expect them to step up, it is the people at The Pursuit." It is such a joy to serve such a great family. People can keep getting on the boat. We'll keep moving ahead full throttle. We are the redeemed!