Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rude Awakening!

I decided to go for a final 2008 run this afternoon. Some runners from a local running club were going to run Waldo Canyon, which I have run many times, and so I thought I would give it a go. I particularly wanted to get out on a little longer run to test my knee after weeks of resting it...

...what a rude awakening!

I tried to keep pace with them up the first section, and did so for most of it, but went anaerobic and struggled to breathe the rest of the run (7.5 M in the mountains). I am really bummin' 'cause of my recently announced plan to run the Grand Canyon R2R2R in May 2009. I realize now how much I have to train, and how far I have fallen since October, when I was able to run 50K fairly easily.

I was one of the last ones in tonight (I think 4th from the last), and while everyone else was having a beer in the parking lot, I ran straight to my car and drove off (totally anti-social...but also, I was totally hypoxic!)

THE plan to start immediately when I get home from the wedding: Run and lose the extra 5-10 I picked up during this rest time!

10 Reasons You Should Read the Institutes in 2009

Over at the Reformation21 Blog, Ligon Ducan has posted 10 reasons why you should join in on the reading of Calvin's Institutes this year...

Why should you read through Calvin's 2009?

Ten reasons:

1. Because it the most important book written in the last 500 years.

2. Because it is foundational for every Reformed systematic theology ever since.

3. Because Calvin was the best exegete in the history of Christianity.

4. Because Calvin is one of the five greatest theologians in Christian history.

5. Because he wrote it as a "sum of piety" not as an arid, speculative dogmatic treatise.

6. Because it gave J.I. Packer the idea for "Knowing God."

7. Because Calvin thought and wrote succintly and clearly. "Brevitas et claritas" was his motto - brief and clear!

8. Because you will know God better, if you read it prayerfully and believingly.

9. Because it's the 500th anniversary year of Calvin's birthday. Don't be a party pooper.

10. Because I agree with what Derek and Iain say in their posts.

Reading Through Calvin's Institutes in 2009

Who has been historically known as "The Theologian of the Holy Spirit"?

Whose personal slogan was "Here Lord, I offer my heart sincerely and promptly?"

Who often sold portions of his personal library to buy new sheets and provisions for the widows of Protestant pastors whose husbands had been murdered in their beds by Roman Catholics?

Whose writings influenced the governments of 5 major western countries (England, Scotland, France, the Netherlands, and the United States)?

Who was born July 10, 1509, thus making this coming year, 2009, the quincentenary year (500th) of his birth?

John Calvin.

Excluding the Apostles, the greatest theologians in the history of the Christian Church were probably Augustine, Athanasius, Luther, and Calvin. While Calvin is often derided and maligned, he is rarely read. In some circles you would think he had horns and a pointed tail. But the truth is, he was a meek and quiet man, totally devoted to God and His Word, and his labors have had lasting influence on not just the Church, but the entire world.

Therefore, I want to invite whoever, young or old (or in the middle), who is interested, to read through his Institutes of the Christian Religion with me in 2009. The best way to understand Calvin is to read him for yourself, and you will be amazed at what you will learn for your effort.

A PDF of a reading plan for 2009 that skips the Lord's Day each week is available here. I plan to blog some comments each week here throughout the year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Grand Canyon Double Crossing-R2R2R

"As opportunities arise...plans change."

I have a new running goal for the first half of this year...

...the Grand Canyon R2R2R!

Recently C.R.U.D. announced this as its 2009 Spring trip and I can't resist it. Not only do I love the Grand Canyon, but to be able to be out there with some really experienced and talented runners will, I hope, be a plus in my shot at an honorable completion. Paul DeWitt writes:

"The route that the bulk of us will be taking is:

Down South Kaibab, up North Kaibab, down North Kaibab, up Bright Angel. This isn’t the fastest route but allows us to see both main south side trails and is the route I’ve taken before.

Note: All are welcome. I think most of us will be doing the full R2R2R, which is about 43 miles and 13,000 feet vertical but obviously you can also just go down to the river and back. If there is anyone who wishes to drive to the North Rim, there would also be the possibility of doing a R2R trip. For those planning the full trip (43 miles), plan on about one hour less than your San Juan 50 time."

My problem with the "plan on about an hour less than your San Juan 50 time" is that I have not done San Juan! So...I have a ton of training to do, but I am pretty sure that I can do it. Above, I spoke of an "honorable completion", and what I mean by this is that I actually run the bulk of it and don't come strolling in 20 hours later in the dark, or something like that.

I am talking with my good friend Jorge about coming along as well...I think he is game (but he hasn't run a marathon yet)!

Here is my tentative plan for training:

1. Keep running my regular 10 mile route in the Garden of the Gods 2-3 times each week.
2. Thursday tempo runs with C.R.U.D. (Through the winter, up Cheyenne Canyon; in the spring, up Barr Trail)
3. Start getting out for the Saturday long runs with C.R.U.D.
4. Yoga
5. Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series (10K, 8M, 10M, and 20K)
6. As early as possible in 2009, run a Pikes Peak marathon.
7. In March, run a reverse Pikes Peak marathon (drive to the top, park, and run down to Manitou Springs...then back up to the summit)
8. In April, run from my house to the summit of Pikes Peak and back.

These extreme climbs, etc. are to get ready for the 13,000 feet of elevation gain on the R2R2R run. I have to be able to run down, back up, back down, and then finally back up out of the Canyon.

Oh, and it is all dependent on how my knee holds up...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hope For The Knee

I have still been sore in my knee after even a short 3 mile run. I tried resting for a couple weeks, but it came right back. I started reading on the internet about something called "bursitis" and I think it is what I have. There are these little sacks of fluid in all our major joints that are there to help us keep from injuring ourselves when over worked. I think that I have enflamed one of these sacks in my knee joint, and it keeps swelling every time I go running. This causes a bit of pain while I run, an especially after as my muscles stiffen up.

I think that I am deficient in the fluids that keep us lubricated in the joints and so I have been taking Glucosemene and Chondroitin, and I ran today with my daughter and finally had no pain.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thoughts on Backsliding

Luke chapter 22 is an interesting study in the phenomena of backsliding. Backsliding is when a Christian moves backwards instead of forwards in their walk of faith. In this chapter we see some particular actions and heart attitudes that are typically found in those who grow cold and fall into sin. These are seen in the disciples words and actions, and particularly in Peter's life.

To begin with, we want to notice the pride that was shown to be in the disciples' hearts back in verse 24. Jesus had just revealed that He would give His life for them—that His body would be torn and His blood would be shed—and instead of being deeply moved and humbled by this revelation, they begin to argue about who is the greatest among them.

Following this, Jesus tells Peter that he will be attacked by the devil but not to fret because He will be praying for him and will restore him after he falls. Instead of being humbled by this revelation Peter swells with pride and asserts that he will never deny the Lord, but is ready to die for Him. Jesus tells him that before the rooster will crow that very day, Peter will have denied Him 3 times...before the end of this chapter, self-assured Peter will deny Christ rather than be honest with a slave girl.

The next thing we see is the Apostles hearing the Word of Christ, as pertaining to only their earthly lives. Jesus has spoken about the coming change of situation and the spiritual trials that they will face, but all they can think about—as has been the case throughout Christ's ministry—are things that concern the immediate issues of life. They are not hearing the spiritual message—things which concern the eternal—rather they are only hearing an earthly lesson—things which pertain merely to the temporal.

In the section which records Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see their lack of prayer. Jesus had warned them that hard trials are coming and therefore they needed to be in prayer, and yet they did not heed His warning. They show no spiritual discipline in their lives—no willingness to forgo their own comfort for Kingdom concerns—and thus instead of praying we find them sleeping.

Next, as the mob comes to arrest Jesus we observe them pull swords and cut off the servant’s ear. What we are see here is that they resort to earthly measures in the midst of trial. The hour has come and instead of relaying on the power of God, they put their trust in their own strength and seek to bring deliverance by their own measures.

And finally, as we read in verse 54 as the case was with Peter, he was following Him at a distance. Although this is a factual description of Peter's proximity to Christ as He is being led away, it is also descriptive of the backslider's method of operation. They comfort themselves with the thought that they are following Christ, but they are really far from Him, only following Him, as it were, at a distance. And when one follows Christ only at a distance, they fall into the practice that we see Peter engaged in here—hanging out with bad company—and then eventually falling from Christ.

Again, in review, the process of backsliding as we see it presented in this chapter is:

1.Pride in the heart—thinking we are better than we really are—an inflated view of our own greatness and superiority to others.

2.Not believing and heeding the Word of God as it speaks to our weakness—this flows out of a heart of pride, and disregards or does not take deadly serious what the Bible says about our sinfulness and weakness.

3.Using the Word of God as a self-help manual for our earthly concerns—this too flows from the first 2, for when you think highly of yourself and disregard the Bible's teaching about your sinfulness and need of salvation, you will not be looking for a Savior, but instead you will be looking for tips on self-improvement, life motivation, or psychological insights.

4.Neglecting the means of grace and spiritual disciplines like prayer—you see, when you misunderstand your real need, you will most likely employ and elevate the wrong measures to help yourself. Prayer makes no sense if your real need, as you perceive it, is self-improvement. You don't need time alone with God, you need time in front of a mirror. And a 'mirror' can come in many forms.

5.Resorting to worldly ways and methods and helps in trials—you see, this too flows out of what has come previously, because if you do not perceive your problem to be radical, to the core, sin and alienation from God—if you think you're pretty good and that all you need is to simply clean yourself up, then you will seek some superficial measure to help your problem. Normally this involves resorting to totally worldly methods of self-improvement or 'mirrors' in some form or another. It might be a small group therapy session, it might be devotional methodology, it might be a specific person—other than Christ—that you look to, to help you improve.

6.Following Christ only at a distance and hanging out with bad company—this too follows what has come before. Whether by outright worldliness or by putting your stock in a human measure or method—versus the ordained means of grace—we drift away from Christ. We pull back and away from Him and He gets further and further away from our view. Our tastes change, our habits morph, and the company we keep shows where our hearts really are. And do not fool yourself, bad company comes in various forms—movies, music, friends, magazines, books, websites, etc.

This is the recipe for spiritual disaster. This is the path that the disciples walked down in this chapter. These are the practices that led to Peter's denial.

Now, the means of avoiding backsliding, and the way to continue to move forward in your growth in grace, is exactly the opposite of each of these:

1.Humble yourself before God
2.Heed what the Word says about your weakness
3.Look to the Word as a revelation of your true need: Christ and His salvation
4.Attend yourself to the means of the grace—those which God calls you to, not those you think you need—and specifically, and especially, private prayer
5.Walk by faith, and not by sight—you will have to trust God and His promises...not your own intuition and wisdom
6.Draw near to Christ, seek to follow Him closely, and avoid bad company