Category: Running

Peace Far Beyond Logic

‘Jacob will again have peace and security,
    and no one will make him afraid.
 I am with you and will save you,’
    declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 30:10b-11a)

I had read this text plenty of times over the years but, more than I realized, I was using reasoning to try and understand it. This past summer though, this passage drew me far beyond logic until there were tears in my eyes.

Why?

I rarely feel anxiety but twice in one week I woke up in the night with my heart pounding. Unexpected obstacles had suddenly arisen in planning a road running series for our running club [that my wife and I were directing.] There was last-minute miscommunication and misunderstanding with the township whose field we were using. They might suddenly nix our plan to hold the races there.

Lying wide awake with my heart pounding, I was not able to just logically and rationally say “Heart, slow down.” With this burst of anxiety, God disciplined and challenged me, daring me to cut down my trust in my own logic.

This kind of divine logic overrule can happen even when we are not doing anything disobedient towards God. Yet, as a friend in my Battleground men’s group reminded me, God sometimes lovingly corrects us with a view to growing us. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10b-11)

So we were going through the trial and were not sure of exactly how it would end…. would our whole race series have to be cancelled? Could we have a sense of security and lack of fear even in the middle of uncertainty?

We knew that God does not say “yes” to every request for the removal of obstacles. He often does, but it is not guaranteed. But there is a guarantee of being comforted, even having joy, right in the middle of everything hitting the fan.

So we did pray that God would clear up the obstacle. We are thankful he did, and our series went on as planned. But what was amazing was how we began to experience God’s provision of peace even before that prayer was answered. We got a taste of what true peace and security mean. That was a nice step on the way to being able to resist when unpredictable circumstances start to drive us nuts!

Pleasure During Trying Times

Here’s a picture of our last running club social get together, way back in March. We were laughing and joking, with no social distancing whatsoever, enjoying tasty food and beer. Little did we know that a few days later gatherings like this were going to be banned…. for months and months.

The feast was a real blessing from God. But what does it mean to experience blessing when such feasts are forbidden? Can I ask God to give me a sense of satisfaction even without being able to enjoy a delicious spread?

The superscription for Psalm 63 says A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. David was driven away from home and hid in the desert in fear of his enemies.  But he did not wallow in self-pity. No, he found an amazing level of joy in this place of exile.

My favorite phrase in this Psalm is from verse 5, I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. Do you ever find the Lord so satisfying that it’s like enjoying a savory juicy prime steak?

The author who’s the best at describing this kind of satisfaction is John Piper.  His excellent book The Pleasures of God – Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God 1describes spiritual pleasure brilliantly. Piper calls this Christian hedonism. His explanations of this to seem way over my head. But over the years, in answer to prayer, God is giving me an increasing taste of this spiritual feast.

Meditate on the following verses. May God’s Spirit cause their truths to dwell more richly in you. That’s wonderful anytime, but especially during this time of COVID.

 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips
(Psalm 63:1,3,5)

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-pleasures-of-god

Jesus’ Heart Monitor

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

This passage always seemed vaguely menacing to me. After all, the deeds listed sound so good and spiritual. Aren’t they all things that God loves seeing done? So what is wrong? Do we need to be scared that Jesus would say ‘I never knew you’ to us, after we thought we were living for him?

Here’s a clue: We know that Jesus says he wants us to put his words into practice. And there is a way we can know we are on the right track as we try to do that. When I go running, I like to wear a heart rate monitor to track my level of effort. And Jesus has given us a spiritual heart monitor.

How does that work? First, note that all three of the activities in verse 22, prophesying, exorcizing and healing, are activities that are done in public. But that means there’s a huge danger that they can become public displays that draw attention to the doer rather than to Jesus!

The Beatitudes give us a remedy for this risk: they focus not on what we are doing but on our heart attitude. Look at this one especially:

 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.(Matthew 5:8)

It’s far better to be doing quiet stuff that few people see while having the right heart attitude, than to do flashy visible stuff with the wrong heart attitude.

So now we see that Jesus kicks out people who seek after self-glory rather than his glory.

Do you ever wonder whether you are seeking his glory or your own glory? Sometimes it is hard to distinguish.  But the mere fact that you are even bothering to wrestle with this issue, admitting that it might be a problem, is a great sign that you are on the right track.

We press on with good deeds, not worrying about publicity or recognition. Inviting Christ to keep working in our hearts leads to an excellent result: At life’s end, Jesus welcomes us into his kingdom, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant!

COVID Running

mind the gap

We sure get a lot of COVID warnings and decrees nowadays!

One decree shut down all our county and state parks. One county park, Tourne, is not too far from the pictured roadside path.  (Long ago, this path was a trolley car route).

The park shutdowns annoyed me.  After all, I have been running in our county for 25 years. And never before did I have someone telling me where I could not go for my run!

So, one weekday at the quiet end of the park, there was no one in sight.  So I snuck around a barricade and ran…. through the park.

But afterwards I did feel a little weird. What if I had fallen down and could not get up? No one would ever find me!

But more importantly I was also becoming a law unto myself, deciding on my own which laws were worth obeying. That’s not really consistent……….with what I profess to believe.

So, I did not run that route again. Thankfully, though, the issue became moot when the county and state parks got reopened.

I am thankful for my solo runs, but I sure do miss group runs. And runners standing shoulder to shoulder waiting for the start of a 5K. And then heading out for postrace beer and pub fare.

We all say the same thing the Psalmist did in Psalm 89 and Psalm 13:  How long, Lord?

Lord knows when. But this will pass.

In the meantime:  Happy running!