My life as I follow Jesus Christ, and live life as a husband, father, friend, pastor, runner, coach, and sinner who found forgiveness and favor with God.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prioritizing Spiritual Disciplines

Quiz for Christ Followers:

Greatest Commandment is....___________
Second Greatest Commandment is...____________
(Hint:  matthew 22:34-39)

Chances are that if you have been a Christ follower for a year or more, you probably got that one right.  Good job.  A+

Here's a second quiz that bothered me today:  What spiritual discipline should be the highest priority for Christ followers?  Should there be a priority list?  Are some more important than others?

As I read the Bible in the book of Acts today, I think there might be a right answer to this...and if life-application is the grading curve, I think I've flunked this quiz. 

It's not uncommon to get excited about the "Acts 2 church" and desire to mimic their devotion "to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2:42).  But these disciplines, being lumped together, don't really provide a priority list for us...or do they?  Turn back a chapter and we get some clarity:

Acts Chapter One Scenario:  Jesus has ascended into heaven...has instructed the believers to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit...and then we read the FIRST discipline, the FIRST priority, the FIRST activity of the Christ followers:

"All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." Acts 1:14

The first activity the people of God committed themselves to was prayer.  It was the foundation for all that had happened, all that was happening, and all that was about to happen.

You may enjoy the discipline of Theological Study, of Community, etc.  But I believe that what really matters in the end is a devotion to prayer that will align, illuminate, and cultivate the other activities to their utmost potential and purpose.

What priority is prayer in your life?  Me?  It's lumped into all the disciplines & activities of a believer, but I'm more convinced than ever to re-prioiritze, re-position, and renew my commitment to prayer.

So, what do you think?  Is that a fair assessment?  Is the activity of prayer MORE important than other activities and disciplines?  Do you think spiritual priorities exist, or should we just lump them all together?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Portland Marathon: Nerd Watches, Honeybuckets, & a Downpour

Running a marathon isn't an event - it's a journey.  6 months of daily runs, sacrificed Saturdays, and an emotional rollercoaster all converge into a race that takes place in a single morning.  Because of this, what happens on that single day unleashes all the emotions and hopes that have stockpiled over this extended season.

Today was that day, and the journey didn't disappoint.  Details started getting interesting earlier this week, when the weather report predicted heavy rainfall for today's race, and for once - the weatherman actually got it right.  We were soaked to the bone before the gun ever went off, and the rain never stopped.  Perhaps the best movie themed title for today's race could be:  "A River Runs Through It."

The most unexpected surprise happened last night when my Garmin 305 GPS Watch (aka Nerd Watch - thanks Jenn...) stopped working for the first time ever.  No charge. No hope. No backup.  For those of you who are not runners, this may seem meaningless, but trust me - running a marathon is all about keeping the right pace.  Strike one.

I thought I could use my new iPod nano, which has a stopwatch, but with all the rain, the touchscreen didn't work.  Strike two.  Never fear, my third plan was to run with the pace group from the Red Lizard Running Club.  They have runners hold up signs with a goal time on it, and then pace everyone to finish in that time.  I looked and looked for the 4hour pace group, but I was in the wrong starting gate, so there was no one to pace me.  Strike three.  For an added bonus strike, I thought I could just look at the posted times at the mile markers and adjust my pace, but the marathon didn't a single time clock until the finish line.  Looking back, I started out way too fast, but without a watch, I just tried to keep an even pace.

Everything seemed fine during the run, until my bladder almost exploded around mile 19.  I had hoped to just get to the finish, but couldn't wait any longer and had to stop at the honeybucket.  Nothing like letting minutes and seconds passing by while hanging out in a smelly, green, closet.  I lost about a minute, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do!

I didn't use my headphones until mile 21.  I need some extra motivation, and I had pre-made a 3+ hour playlist.  Unfortunately, my nano somehow got stuck on repeat to the ONE chill song that was on the playlist...which I ended up listening to over and over again for the last HOUR of my race.

The too-fast first half drained me the last half, and it was all I could do to keep running the last couple miles.  My jog turned into a shuffle, but strangely enough I was in good spirits heading to the finish line.  I crossed the finish completely unaware of what my time was, fairly certain I didn't break 4 hours as I had hoped.  The final results came in:  4 hours, 41 seconds.  I missed it by a Honeybucket.

Overall, I was very happy with the results.  I still P.R.'d by four minutes in pretty nasty conditions.  It still amazes me that its even possible to run 26.2 miles.  It takes me to my absolute depths, it reveals my ultimate pain threshold, and allows me to celebrate a feat that few experience.

The details of my race can be seen with cool graphics, if you'd like to see how I compared to the other marathoners.  I'm pretty sure they don't give out trophies for coming in two thousand eighteenth place, but I'll have to find out.

After recovery, we headed to Claim Jumper to reclaim part (or all) of the 3000+ calories we burned earlier in the day.

Special thanks to the Portland Marathon Clinic for giving me a reason to run on Saturday, and my wife for putting up with my quirky requests - not just on race day, but during this whole experience.

Overall a journey with no regrets, lots of twists, and a finish worth fighting for.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sobering Success: a small hopecity story

Last night we had our first ever public pre-launch gathering for hopecity church.  It was a tremendous night.  We currently have about 30 people on our launch team, but there was about 50 people who showed up to Papaccino's cafe in the heart of Woodstock to hear the hopecity story and consider joining our team.  We had no marketing, just people inviting people.  It was great to see our team so energized to see God move in our midst.

We had laughter, a few tears, and renewed hope.  We bragged about Jesus and his love for our city.  We tipped our barista over $100.00 for serving us for 2 hours, and people visiting from the community were extremely open and friendly about the idea of a new church coming to this area of SE Portland - despite it being one of the most unchurched areas of our very unchurched city.  

Walking away, I'm very thankful...but I'm also sobered to the deep need of prayer.  After a big event like that I'm more convinced than ever, that our strategies, plans, and efforts are absolutely ineffective in producing life-changing results UNLESS we run to God in prayer and intercession.

 This week our team is stirring up our commitment to prayer.  We must remind ourselves that: 

"Prayer is the primary role of church planters and their core team. Jesus taught that God provides the harvest and the workers in response to the prayers of the saints (Matt. 9:38). Neil Cole writes, “The more prayers we offer, the more workers we’ll see. The more workers raised up, the greater the harvest”. Prayer provides the wisdom and understanding necessary to deal with the monumental cultural shifts created by the advent of postmodernity. Busyness is an enemy to prayer, and church planters’ lives are replete with busy work. "
A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary

The first Mon, Tues, & Wed of each month we are fasting and praying over these things:
  • Mon:  "Break up the fallow ground in SE Portland"  (see Hosea 10:12-13)
  • Tues:  "Draw we go to people." (See Luke 8:1) "Draw the launch team." (See 1 Samuel 10:26; Numbers 11:17)
  • Wed:  "Open up the doors for financial provision, that we would be well-supplied" (See Phil 4:18-19)
I'd love to invite you to join us in these prayers.