Monday, April 30, 2012


This coming Saturday I'll be running my 3rd half marathon.  I'm really excited about it and am ready to push myself to reach my goal time of 2 hours.  I'm about 7 minutes behind that pace right now, so I'm hoping that some adrenaline kicks in to help carry me to that goal.

I think I can call myself a "runner" now.  A competitive runner?  No.  But, someone who enjoys running?  Yes.  I did a 12 mile training run Sunday afternoon and am fairly sore today, but, as they say ... it's a good kind of sore ... a soreness that comes from a feeling of accomplishment.

I'm fairly new to running.  I didn't really start it seriously until 2009.  But, I'm pretty well hooked on it now and I think that running has taught me quite a bit about life in general.  Here are a few random things I've learned:

The Example Goes a Long Way

The picture below is of my son, Ezra.  He will often ask if he can go on a run with me.  He turns 5 this week and I've been able to take him out on a couple of different 1-mile runs with me and they've been so much fun!  My entire family sees me do this and I enjoy being able to set the example for them in this area.  As the husband and dad, I want the responsibility of setting and example for my family.  It's important for us, as men, not to run away from that but to embrace it.  It's our job to set the pace for our families.

 Sometimes You Just Have to Move Forward

I had the opportunity to run a marathon in 2010.  I remember during the training for it, some miles definitely felt longer than others.  Some days I'd feel great while running and other days were really difficult.  On those hard days I would keep telling myself "Just go forward.  One step in front of the other. Just keep moving."  Life will often throw things at us that are difficult to handle.  We have the option to stop and crumble or to keep moving forward.  I think running has taught me to keep moving even when I feel like stopping.

It Doesn't Just Happen

When I started running in 2009, I was severely overweight.  I knew it was time to drop some pounds and get back to being healthy.  What I also knew was that losing weight, no matter how much I WANTED it to happen wasn't just going to happen.  I needed to be intentional about it.  I needed a plan, goals, and the willingness to put it all in to action.  Things in life typically "don't just happen."  We put ourselves on paths that will always lead somewhere.  Every path has a destination.  Is your path taking you where you want to eventually end up?

Setbacks Happen

I ran my first half marathon in 2009 and was beginning to train for a marathon in the fall of 2009 when I began to develop an "overuse" injury called IT Band syndrome.  It's a tightening of the "illio-tibial" facia that runs on the outside of the legs from the hip to the tip of the fibula.  I had therapy, injections, ultrasound, rest ... nothing was helping.  I eventually had to have surgery to repair it.  It was set back.  I had to take a few months off.  Setbacks will happen, but trying to learn from them and not give up on the ultimate goal will take us far.  The next year, I succeeded in finishing my first marathon.

Stay Positive

On a run, the moment you begin to allow negative thoughts of being tired or sore enter your mind, you have a choice.  Will you continue to focus on those things or will you replace them with something positive?  I was in a conversation with my wife a couple of weeks ago and in that conversation I had mentioned a few negative things about myself ... well, more than a few.  I had said enough things that it caused my wife to say "Stop talking so negatively about yourself.  Why are you feeling the need to do that?"  I believe Satan tries to pour negativity in to us.  And, it's not enough to simply not think about it ... you have to replace the negative with something positive.  It's a weed and feed principle ... weed out the negative, feed the positive.  Since that conversation with my wife, I have tried to weed out the negative thoughts that so easily enter my mind and replace them with truth from God's word.  It's been a good practice for me over the past couple of weeks.

It's Fun Together

I enjoy running alone.  It's a good time for me to get away.  But, I also enjoy running with others.  When running with others, you have someone that helps push you and motivate you to do your best.  The picture below is of our team running a Tough Mudder this past November.  We trained together for it and helped keep each other accountable.  Accountability is key.  Who is the one asking you the difficult questions?  Who is the one that going to encourage you but also challenge you?  Life together is so much better than life alone.

Just a few random thoughts.  Running has been on my mind since I have the Indy Mini coming up this weekend.  Whether it's running, biking, weight lifting, whatever ... physical exercise can teach us a lot about life in general and just makes us better people.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Seek Truth ... If God is Good Why Do Bad Things Happen

We continued our "Seek Truth" series at axis Wednesday by trying to address the really difficult question of "If God is good, why do bad things happen?"  I've been serving as a pastor at Grace Community Church for nearly 10 years and during that time I have seen some really difficult things happen ... deaths of the old and the young, families broken apart, abuse, jobs lost, people lied to and lied about, I've witnessed kids in a third world country literally living in a garbage dump and digging for food for the day out of the trash.  I've also seen amazingly good things happen as well ... addictions broken, marriages restored, families brought back together, orphans rescued, the starving fed.  In our world the potential for both good and bad exists.  The difficult question is if God is good (and the Bible says He is), why would He even allow bad things to happen?  Why not just put a stop to it all?

I tried to talk to our students openly and honestly about it all and I realize that this is one of those issues that you can't really wrap up nicely, put a bow on it, and then be done with it.  There's a bit of a tension that exists and we may have to live with that tension.  What I believe to be true are these things:

- The Bible addresses the issue.  It doesn't back away from it.  Jesus said in John 16:30 "In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world."  He never said expect everything to be easy.  He spoke the exact opposite ... expect life to be difficult.  He never sugar-coated life.  But, He did not leave us without hope, either ... "take heart, I have overcome the world."

- I don't believe God created evil.  I do believe that God created the potential for evil when He created mankind with the freedom to choose God or NOT to choose God.  The video below speaks of this and is worth the minute and a half that it lasts.

- People hurting other people is the cause of most suffering in the world.  There's a lot of injustice in our world and a majority of it is caused by selfish people living life on their own terms and causing others to suffer because of it.

- We often get upset because God doesn't seem to do anything about the injustices around us.  But, what if the tables were turned?  What if God looked at us and said "What will YOU do about it?"

- Sin has an impact on our world.  When one chooses sin, destruction is the natural result.  The enemy comes only to "steal, kill, and destroy." (John 10:30).  It's all he knows.  Our world is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3 and Romans 8).  Romans 8:22 actually speaks of our world being in the "pains of childbirth" because of the curse of sin.  I've seen the birth of all 3 of my children and with each birth I remember thinking "I'm so glad I'm not a woman!"  It's painful.  I saw the agony of my wife.  The Bible describes sins effect on the world as incredibly painful and it's crying out for relief from the curse of sin ... as we all are.

- God will ultimately judge evil.  God is amazingly patient with us (Psalm 103:10, 2 Peter 3:9).  But, Galatians 6:7 tells us "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows."  A day will come when God says enough is enough.

- Jesus suffered too.  Think of what Jesus went through ... abuse, betrayal, torture, murdered ... we do not serve a God who is unsympathetic to our suffering.  When we hurt, He hurts.  And, our hurt ultimately brings us to grips with our longing for heaven ... we long for more than what this world offers.

- God can bring good out of bad.  I've had some difficult things happen in my life and, although I didn't necessarily see it at the time, I can look back and see that those difficulties were used to build character and strength in my life.  Some hurts may never go away.  But, a hurt is an opportunity for dependence upon God in a way that we never would have had otherwise.  Again, I'm not saying this is easy or fun to go through, but the difficult times can be used to build strength in our lives.  I remember watching the Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford a few years ago and he shared openly how some of the hardest times in his life made him a better person.  

This is an incredibly difficult issue and there are many others who address it much better than I do (many of my thoughts are from The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask by Mark Mittelberg), but the reality of it is, no matter how well one addresses the issue, hurt is still hurt and none of us enjoy it or want to see others go through it.  That makes it incredibly difficult to accept ANY reason for it to happen.  But, I believe that in the midst of our hurts, God truly desires to walk with us and He hurts with us too.

First Day on the Job

Cool perspective from Pastor Jim on what he's learned since his first days on the job at Grace Community starting in 1996.  Check it out right here.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

40 Days of Oatmeal

So, for Lent this year, I decided to try something slightly different.  Instead of "giving up" something, I decided to only have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast during that time.  I usually have oatmeal 3 times a week anyway, but decided for the 40 days of Lent, I would have NOTHING else for breakfast except oatmeal and fruit.  By week 3, let me tell ya, it was starting to get old and by the time it was finally over, I couldn't WAIT for something different for breakfast!

It's been over two weeks since Lent ended and today was my first day having oatmeal since that time.  I had told my wife several times that I need to get back to eating oatmeal, but just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I realize it's one of the healthiest things a person could eat.  It has great benefits for your body, but I was so burnt out on it, I couldn't bring myself to eat any.  Well, this morning I said the same thing to my wife and she finally said to me, "You just have to do it, babe.  Stop talking about it and just do it."  (She has a very tender way of speaking truth to me.)  :)  So, I did.  And it was GREAT!

I share that for this simple reason ... how many times do we talk about doing something but never do it?  I know it sounds so simple, but the best way to get something done is to first start it.  What have you been talking about doing for a long time, but just haven't done it?  Maybe today is the day to start.  And, having someone to give you that extra "nudge" to stop talking and start doing is so valuable.  Who is that person in your life and in whose life are YOU that person?  

So, what's holding you back?  A vast majority of the time it's just ourselves and our lack of desire to start.  But, you CAN do this.  It's amazing how much momentum can happen when you simply start. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

30 Days of Good

Today, many students in our youth ministry are starting a 30 Days of Good challenge.  The idea is to be a driving force for good in our homes, schools, and community over the next 30 days.  So, every day, students will have some type of assignment to complete that revolves around Bible study, Bible memorization, and acts of kindness.  I'm excited to see what comes of this and the impact our students can have in the lives of others over the next 30 days.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Seek Truth ... Why Should We Trust the Bible?

The picture above is of a book that has literally changed my life ... it's my Bible.  I have several Bibles that I own.  I think being a pastor means you have to own at least 10 ... which I could probably track down more than that between my home and office.  But, the Bible above is my favorite.  It was given to me in 1994 by a group of teenagers I worked with at my home church in PA.  Since 1994, I have read through it, written countless notes in it, high-lited numerous verses, spilled things on it, accidentally ripped pages of it, had a dog chew up the first 3 chapters of Genesis (a friend said it must have been a Darwinian dog), I've laughed while reading it, cried while reading it, and have even fallen asleep while reading it ... but if my house were on fire and I could only grab a few things before it totally burnt to the ground, that Bible would be one of them.  

I can honestly say that I have fallen in love with God's word.  I get up early every morning and spend time in it not because I have to but because I NEED to.  I need my time with God.  My days are always busy.  Being a husband, father of 3, a baby on the way, and working at a high capacity church, my days are always full.  But, no matter what is happening in my day, nothing is more important than me spending time with God.  

At axis we are in the midst of a series called "Seek Truth."  The idea behind it is to allow our students the opportunity to examine what they believe ... to not believe it simply because someone tells them that it's true, but to examine it and begin to make their faith their own.  So, we've been addressing some difficult questions. This past Wednesday we asked the question "Why should I trust the Bible?"  

I tried to address common concerns regarding the Bible like "Since it was written by people who didn't understand science, we can't trust it."  "The Bible was written too far after the events actually happened to be considered reliable."  "The Bible was copied and translated so many times that it surely has been corrupted."  "The Bible is full of myths."  And, finally, "What makes the Bible better than any other 'religious' book?"  It was a great night full of information but our kids seemed to eat it up.  Never let anyone tell you need to "talk down" to a teenager.  True, you may have to adjust some of the language and presentation of what you're sharing, but teenagers are anything but "dumb."  Don't be afraid to share truth with them.  They can handle it and will often challenge what you say, which will just make us, as teachers, better.  

Next Week:  Why Would God Allow Evil?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Newest Team Member

Here is a post from Pastor Jim's blog about Ted Rondeau ... the newest member of our team.  He's a great guy and I'm excited to see how God uses him at Grace Community.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Seek Truth ... How Can We Know God Exists?

I grew up in the church ... basically spent my entire elementary and teen years there.  I had a good foundation of Biblical knowledge.  I was a Bible "quizzer" and actually won awards for Bible quizzing against others (couldn't tell ya, though, what's happened to those awards).  I was spoon fed from the Bible and could regurgitate info from it pretty well.  But, when I started my first year of college at Penn State University, a state school that is ANYTHING but Christian, for the first time my faith was challenged.  What I believed about God and the Bible was truly put to the test by many of my professors and many other students.  My belief in Creation, my belief in Jesus, my very belief in God were all tested by very intelligent (and many whom were well meaning, charming people who I liked) and, I have to admit, my faith was shaken a bit at that time. And, honestly, that was a good thing for me.  It forced me to examine my faith, look at what I believe, and actually make it MY own.  

Many teenagers will be in the same situation when they leave for college.  My desire is to try my best to equip our students to be ready for these tests and to help them make their faith their own ... not their parent's faith, not their friend's faith, not their church's faith ... but THEIR faith.  

So, we started a new series at axis called Seek Truth.  In this series we'll be looking at some of the really hard questions that many Christians are afraid they will be asked.  We started off with the question "How Can WE Know That God Exists?"   I'm no "debater".  I don't think I've ever been called an "intellectual."  I'm not sure I've even won an argument in my marriage.  :)  And, I readily admit that having "faith" means there are some things we simply will not be able to understand or explain.  Faith, by very definition, is "confidence or turst in a person or thing ... a belief that is not based on proof."  Some things we just will not have "proof" for, and that's why it's called faith.  But, having faith doesn't mean you're an idiot.  It doesn't mean you've suspended all reason or logic.  It doesn't mean there aren't strong evidences that point to WHY we believe something to be true.  So, here is a very brief synopsis of the reasons given for why I believe God exists ... and I intentionally didn't use the Bible in this case.  I believe the Bible to be true, but for one who does not, me ONLY talking from the Bible trying to give the case for God would not be completely effective.  Is there evidence outside of the Bible that points to God?

1. The Existence of the Universe.  If the Universe began to exist, it must have had a cause ... a cause outside of itself and therefore beyond time, space, matter, and physical energy.  A "cause" that, to me, sounds a lot like the God of the Bible.  

2. An Intelligent Design.  The complexity of a single human cell is just astounding.  Combine that with single human cell needing to work together with billions of other cells to form a human body.  But, then combine that with the idea that, for that human body to survive, countless acts of precision need to happen in the laws of physics, making life possible.  Life simply requires too much information to occur randomly.  The more complex something is, the less likely it is to have occurred by chance.  An intelligent design points to a Designer, who to me sounds like the God of the Bible.

3. A Moral Standard.  We can't really define good or evil without some type of standard.  I can't complain that a stick is bent unless I first have a concept of what is straight.  In the same way there can be evil only if there is first good.  But, if there is no God, what defines the standard of good?  Without God, we are left to create our own standard of morality.  But, we have a sense of right and wrong.  We can choose to ignore that sense if we so desire, but inside there is an innate standard of morality that, I believe, comes from God.

4. The Power of Your Story.  When a follower of Jesus lives their life in such a way that it points to God, that it points to the difference He has made ... when embracing Jesus' way of life provides a tangible difference in the way we live compared to the way someone who has NOT embraced Jesus' way of life ... that is probably the strongest evidence for God.  As I said earlier, I am NOT a great debater in any way, shape, or form.  But, IF I were and IF I could win every debate ALWAYS proving the existence of God ... but if I were a jerk in the process ... would a person want to follow the God I just proved existed?  Probably not.  If following Jesus makes one a jerk, who would want to follow Him?But, if we know God personally and allow Him to be on display powerfully in our lives, our story can be powerful evidence that God is truly alive and active.  

Next Week:  Why Should We Trust the Bible?

Newest Series at Grace Community

Starting this Sunday ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Sunday at Grace Community

Easter Sunday at Grace was a powerful day.  As we reflected on the day at our staff meeting this morning we were, once again, blown away by what God did ... not only at our services, but simply what God has done for each of us through Jesus.  1 Corinthians 15:17 - 19 says "If Christ is not raised from the dead, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Jesus we are to be pitied more than all men."  For me personally I was able to reflect on my life and the difference God has made in it.  One of the songs we sang in The Link was the song "In Christ Alone."  I was so moved by the lyrics, especially these ones:  

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

I am so thankful for what Jesus has done in my life and simply cannot imagine living life without Him by my side.  And, seeing all of the ones who made decisions for Jesus Sunday and knowing that they have the same hope in them now just thrills my soul!  

Easter Flash Mob

We wanted to kick our Easter services off with something completely different this year.  Here's what we did.  It was such a fun way to start our Easter celebration and caught everyone completely off guard.

Easter 2012 Dance Opener from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

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