Archive for March, 2007

28
Mar
07

First Things First

I have much to write about this week regarding the ING Georgia Marathon I completed on Sunday. However, before I write about my race I want to give thanks and glory to the Lord God Almighty.

As many of you know, two weeks before the race I severely injured my right hamstring. As a result of that injury I was unable to complete the final two crucial weeks of my 18-week training program. The physical impact was great. The psychological impact of that injury, however, was even greater. Psychologically I was close to sidelining myself from the race altogether.

In order to overcome the mental barrier I had built in my head I tried to loosen my hamstring with a morning jog on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Each morning I came home with a very tender hammy. Thus, in the back of my mind was the subversive thought that I might not be able to complete the run.

Now to the reason why I want to give my Father thanks and glory for completing the marathon.

On the last night of the revival at Taylorville Baptist Church last week, I spent some time kneeling at the altar. While doing so, my hamstring wrenched rather deeply, which caused me to question once again whether or not I should run. While kneeling before the Lord I made this consecrated request: “Lord, I want desperately to run in this race. The only way I will be able to finish is if you empower me to do so. If you will enable me to finish this marathon, I promise to give You all the praise, glory and credit for the accomplishment.”

Move forward to Sunday. As I crossed the finish line I raised my hands to the heavens and said, “Thank you Lord. To your name be the glory!”

Yet there is more.

While praying at the altar at Taylorville, the Lord reminded me of a meaningful verse that He had given me in preparation for the revival. The verse is in Isaiah 57:15, and it reads,

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

In addition to being my theme verse for the revival, Isaiah 57:15 would become my theme verse for the marathon. I would quote and re-quote that singular sentence throughout the race. Saturday night I quoted the verse just before falling to sleep. The next morning it was the first thing on my mind when my alarm sounded at 4:00 AM.

I quoted Isaiah 57:15 at the start of the race. I quoted it several other times during the race. When I was tired, I would say, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up…” When my hammy would start to twinge, I would repeat, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up…”

The best part of the run came for me somewhere between miles four and five. It is usually at this juncture the adrenaline of the race starts to wear off. With that thought cascading through my head I started to wonder how my hammy would hold up when the adrenaline was worn off. I started to question when my hamstring would tighten up so much that I could not finish the race. While wondering when the pain would come, the Lord placed this calming thought in my head:“Ryan, think of all the people who are praying for you right now. There are so many people praying for you at your church and in your family. You have nothing to fear. I am in control. Just run and I will take care of everything else.”Wow, you have no idea how empowering of a thought that was for me. It would be a safe underestimation to say I was set free from all my mental barriers at that point. The mental block was broken down and moved out of the way.

My hammy cramped for just a few strides at mile 14. Fear struck at the core of my brain. Yet again, the Lord return to say, “Run, Ryan, I will take care of everything else.”

Make sure you get this last thought before I close today’s blog. It was the Lord who empowered and enabled me to start and finish the marathon on Sunday. It was the Lord who gave me the strength. It was the Lord God Almighty who helped me overcome all the obstacles that were before me. And, it is the Lord, my God, who deserves all the credit.

I can say with 100% assurance I ran the ING Georgia Marathon for the glory of God!

Tomorrow I want to talk about the spiritual aspect of running 26.2 miles.
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28
Mar
07

God Takes Away Our Sins

Okay, this story is going to bless you. A CrossPoint school teacher sent this to me last week.

I had a funny I thought I’d share. I have a little girl in my class who “preaches” everyday. Like when we talked about Easter, she presented the gospel & told all my kids they needed to ask Jesus into their heart before they go to hell. She’s quite the evangelist! Anyway, I guess I was the devil today because if anyone knows anything about this time of year…they know kids are CRAZY & need spring break. Well she’s been a wild child & had to move her discipline clothespin today & I really try not to go back on my word because then they eat you alive. Well…now I feel like a big jerk….first of all because she has cried her eyes out & mainly because she then went to the carpet & prayed for God to take her sins away & please help her never to do that sin again. Then she came & told me it was all ok because God was not sad with her anymore & that’s all that mattered. Well I was speechless because there’s not much you can say to that. She is now going around the room & teaching the kids how to pray & ask God to take their sins away. I’m loving it!

Don’t you wish we all got that upset about our sin everyday!

Amen, and amen!

22
Mar
07

Revival at Taylorville

Wow, I have been super busy the last few days, and today is the first time I have had time to sit down work on my computer.

I am leading a revival in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for Taylorville Baptist Church. Dr. Curtis Kelley is the pastor of this sweet church.

Some of you may recognize Dr. Kelley’s name. Curtis Kelley is Mark Kelley’s father. For those of you who never knew Mark, he was a CrossPointer who taught many CrossPointers how to live and how to die when he was faced with terminal cancer in 2005.

I am not a very good revival preacher. That is why you rarely hear of me going off to preach in many revivals. I am much more comfortable preaching for you week after week instead preaching a weeklong series of messages for a room full of strangers. The people of Taylorville are very gracious, however, and seem to be following along with my messages. Here’s a rundown:

The Beatitudes


On Sunday night I preached all eight of the beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12. Yes, it made for a long message as I worked my way through the central thought of each trait. While praying about what to preach I decided to begin with something that was fresh on my mind. So I used what the Lord taught me these last several weeks in my own personal study while preaching for you. One woman commented that she had never heard the beatitudes presented in such a way. I took that as an affirmation. At least the message caused her to evaluate her perspective on what Jesus said.

God’s Love


Monday night I preached Romans 5:4-11, where Paul teaches us about God’s love. The introduction to my message began at verse four, where Paul states:

hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

God’s love is not sprinkled into our hearts or dripped into our hearts; He lavishly and extravagantly pours His love into our hearts. From there I worked through the passage to identify four traits pertaining to God’s love:

God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:6

God’s love is UNEQUALED

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7-8

God’s love is UNENDING

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Romans 5:9-10

God’s love is GOD GIVING HIMSELF TO US

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:11

In my conclusion I illustrated that God did not give us a plan or a way or a theory or a strategy in order to save us. God gave us Himself to us in order to save us. Thus, we do not need the things of God. Instead, we need God. Most of us pursue the benefits of knowing God—forgiveness, hope, peace, wisdom, and love, etc. Instead of pursing the benefits, we should pursue the Benefactor. When we seek the Benefactor the benefits will come.

God is Holy

In the introduction to Monday night’s message I instructed the people that the church needed to do a better job of preaching, teaching and talking about two subjects. First, I suggested we should spend more time talking about who God is. (That is something we are trying to do more of at CrossPoint). Second, I told them I thought we should spend more time talking about how much God loves us. Since I preached about God’s love that night, I decided to preach about God on Tuesday night.

I used Isaiah 6:1-9 as my text for Tuesday night. Isaiah 6 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture to preach. Isaiah 6 is where we learn about the holiness of God, or as one commentator worded it, “the Godness of God.”

I worked through the passage one or two sentences at a time making the following points about God:

God is SUPREMELY DISTINCT

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah 6:1

God is UTTERLY PERFECT

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Isaiah 6:2-3

We are COMPLETELY UNWORTHY

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Isaiah 6:4-5

We are TOTALLY FORGIVEN

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.
Isaiah 6:6-8

If you look closely in that last phrase you can see the New Testament hidden in the Old Testament. There at the end of verse 8 is the Gospel of Jesus Christ—your guilt is taken away, and you sin atoned for.

Jesus’ Invitation


On Wednesday, I completed the revival services with a message from Matthew 11:28-30. In this great passage Jesus invites us to do three things:

First, he invites us to COME TO HIM

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Next, He invites us to TAKE FROM HIM

Take my yoke upon you,
Matthew 11:29a

Finally, He invites us to LEARN FROM HIM

and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:29b-30

I think that is what we should do with a revival. We should COME, TAKE and LEARN from Jesus.

Even though I am not good at preaching revivals, I am enjoying my time with the sweet people known as Taylorville Baptist Church. Please pray for me one more night as I try to follow the Lord’s leadership in what to preach.
Tomorrow I want to catch you up on my marathon training. Thanks for being patient with me this week in catching up my blog.

16
Mar
07

A Simple Prayer

My friend Ray Pritchard commented about a very exceptional prayer on his blog the other day. After reading this prayer, I adapted it into my morning time alone with the Lord each day this week. The answers to that prayer have encouraged me.

The prayer goes like this,

“Heavenly Father, you are in charge of everything that will happen to me today—

the good and the bad,

the happy and the sad,

the positive and the negative.

Please help me to be thankful for everything that will happen to me today.”

I like the prayer because it acknowledges God’s Sovereignty over the affairs of my life—Heavenly Father, you are in charge of everything that will happen to me today.

While reading through Isaiah this morning I was reminded of God’s Sovereign way over my life. Throughout the reading I was continually underlining the repeated phrase “I am the Lord.” While seeing that phrase repeated over and over in the Scripture I recalled a question a friend of mine asks. I often hear him inquire, “How Sovereign is God?” The natural answer, of course, is the Lord is either totally Sovereign or He is not Sovereign at all.

Additionally, I like the prayer because it reminds me that my day will not be perfect. It will be filled with both successes and setbacks—

the good and the bad,

the happy and the sad,

the positive and the negative.

There is no such thing as a perfect day. That’s a good reminder for the perfectionist that rises up in me periodically. Many times my frustration is heightened when things do not go as I expect or plan. Realizing very little, if anything, will go as I predict alleviates a good portion of my aggravation.

Also, I like the prayer because it humbles me by reminding me to be thankful for all things—Please help me to be thankful for everything that will happen to me today.

It was Paul who said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Being thankful, I am convinced, is a characteristic of spiritual maturity.

Take a few minutes this morning to add this simple prayer to your morning conversation with God. Then, let me know how the Lord uses the prayer in your own life.

15
Mar
07

Two Weeks and Counting

I am two weeks away from the ING Georgia Marathon. I have thus far completed 16 weeks of training for this marathon. During the last six weeks I have logged 50, 34, 50, 34, 50 & 34 total miles respectively.

Last Friday I ran the fastest half marathon I have ever run. I completed 13.1 miles in 1:59:44. That is a 9:12 per mile pace, which is 48 second per mile faster than what I want to average in Atlanta.

Toward the end of that run my right hamstring started hurting me. The last mile or so I was in considerable pain, yet I had a goal to complete my run in less than 2 hours and so I pushed it. That was not a good idea. I have rested my hamstring since then, and it has improved minimally during that time.
I told Vonda this morning that I would be terribly disappointed if I was not able to run my marathon due to this latest injury. I plan to take a few more days off to recuperate.

I have been here before, however. Approximately 8 weeks ago I had some sciatica nerve problem. I iced it three times a day and took a few days off. I was back running by the end of the week. I am praying I can do the same with my hamstring. The Runner’s World Injury Prevention Guide says it may take one to three weeks to heal. Let’s pray my hamstring heals in one week or less.

Thanks for letting me log another entry about my marathon training. As you might expect, training for a marathon consumes a lot of your time and thinking. I guess that is why I devote so much time to writing about it.

I selfishly ask that you pray for my hamstring to heal and heal quickly.

14
Mar
07

Welcome Beth Howe

Sunday was an incredible day for the CrossPoint. Adding Beth Howe to our staff as our first full time Children’s Minister was the obvious highlight of the day.

I like Beth for several reasons.

She has already developed CHEMISTRY with our staff. During an informal meal Saturday night some of the staff started chiding her. I am proud to say Beth held her ground by responding accordingly. I like her spunk.

She is COMPETENT. Beth has what we need to lead our Children’s Ministry. She’s educated. She’s talented. She’s a continuous learner. And she is willing.

She is CREATIVE. Last summer Beth wrote a series of children’s Bible studies based on some Dr. Seuss books. Something tells me she will introduce that series to our children this summer.

She has CHARACTER. During the Personnel Team’s search and interview process with Beth, she informed us of her pregnancy. She did so, just in case that presented a problem with us calling her to our staff. I believe that reveals her level of integrity.

Beth plans to start work by Tuesday, March 27. Please continue to pray for Beth, Jonathan and Ethan as they prepare to move to Birmingham. I look forward to welcoming her to CrossPoint. As with our other staff additions, I believe Beth will be a tremendous asset to God’s church known as CrossPoint.

11
Mar
07

The Clock is Counting Down

Last Monday I took my weekly glimpse at the Georgia Marathon webpage. On the front page is a countdown clock, which as of Monday night read 18 days, 06 hrs, 07 m, and 19 s until the 2007 ING Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon.

My heart started racing with adrenaline as I watched the clock tick away. I have been training for this puppy since December 1. Actually, my training began last June when I decided to get my fat self back into running shape. Since June 1 I have accumulated 840 miles.

The mileage breaks down into two segments—June 1 to November 30 and December 1 to March 6. From June 1 until November 30 I logged 400 miles, which calculates to 57 miles a month or 14.25 miles a week. From December 1 to March 6 I logged the remaining 440 miles, which calculates to 147 miles a month or 49 miles a week. The last three months I have obviously picked up the mileage as well as my pace.

As you can tell, training for a marathon is intense. And, as many of you know, I enjoy the intensity. I take pleasure in the discipline associated with such an effort. Sure, the training is time consuming. And, it can get in the way of many of your plans if you do not plan ahead for bad (or cold) weather, travel, out-of-town company and so on. But the results of such training are innumerable.

If the Lord is willing I want cross the finish line with a PR (Personal Record). Since I do not know the course layout yet, I am not willing to state publicly my goal time. If the course is hilly, I may not run as fast as I expect. If it is like my training courses around town, I should do quite well. The weather and in addition to how I feel the morning of the big run will affect my time.

Vonda and I will be headed to the other side town for lunch on Tuesday. Our purpose for going to that part of the city was to purchase a new pair of running shoes. This is my third pair to purchase since June. A good pair of running shoes should last somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles, depending on the kind of mileage you put on them. I want to break in my new shoes over the next two weeks so I can wear them in the marathon. Also, with purchasing a new pair of shoes, I will be motivated to continue my training habits when I return from Atlanta.
As for training for the remainder of the year I have a few other goals:

  • I want to log 1000 miles in 2007. Since I have accumulated 350 in the last ten weeks, I think that is an attainable goal. With nine months remaining in the year I can average approximately 72 miles a month or 18 miles a week to reach that goal.
  • I want to run two additional marathons during 2007. If the Lord is willing, I want to run the Nashville Marathon four weeks after I complete the Georgia Marathon on April 28. That all depends on how well my legs and knees recuperate from Georgia. My third marathon may be in November at the Chickamauga Battlefield in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
  • I want to hit my target weight of what I weighed when I graduated from high school by June. I am getting closer and closer each week. That may be my biggest goal for the year. If I can reach that goal, I think I will be in good physical shape.

There are other goals I will not bore you with. I would be curious to hear what kind of fitness goals you have for the year. If you do not have any, take some time now to think about what you can do the next 90 days to get your body in better shape. I am convinced of this, the better we take care of ourselves and our bodies the more productive we can be for the Lord.