Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Coach Lyle Claussen

During last night’s visit about upcoming workouts, Coach shared how he as a substitute teacher in southeast Nebraska put the local all-star football players in their place during class (keep reading). This caused my reflecting on his many lessons over the years. Too many to cover here.

I first met Lyle when I moved to Kearney, NE after graduating from Kansas State in 1990. Before a local 5K in June he turned around and warmed-up with me, we have been friends since.

He transformed University of Nebraska—Kearney, then Kearney State College, from an average men’s NAIA cross country program to one of the nation’s best, regardless of division.

I once asked this member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame who has spoken at a multitude of Coaching Clinics across America, “Is there is a race distance or track event that you have not been asked to speak about at a clinic?”

“Yes, the javelin and the hammer throw. But those are easy, get out of the way…” Lol

As a coach, he modeled for his NCAA Div II teams with five top eight and three top four national championship finishes in six years little things such as to stand back from the luggage carousel at the airport until your bag has arrived. Many business people fail to understand this simple concept. It’s about awareness and respect of others.

He insisted that his top teams and All-American runners run absolutely no more than three abreast, preferably two abreast, keeping the pack in tight formation near the curb or side of the road while running down the streets and the roads facing traffic. It’s about awareness, safety, and respect for others.

Yesterday (Tuesday 08/29/2016), he stopped lecturing during class while serving as a long-term sub. He then stood in front of the class with his arms crossed. Most of the class focused their attention on him. The two star athletes continued visiting. He stood silent until they became silent.

“Have you two believed you’re deserving of special attention (or favor) all of your life or are you being obnoxious because I am a substitute teacher?”

They remained silent.

Coach continued, “Yes, I am a coach (he assists with cross country and track) and I like athletes. In fact, because I am a coach and like athletes, I have much higher expectations for those who are athletes in my classes. So far, you two have failed to reach the lowest standard for any student.” (May not be verbatim, yet close.)

The all-star athletes and the rest of the class were stunned.

“You should have seen some of their eyes and facial expressions.”

If you're a standout in any specialty, the more that is expected of you by your peers in all of life.

Choose high performance over highly arrogant and obnoxious behavior.

Monday, August 29, 2016

God's Greatest Gift

What is God's blessing, or what is the greatest gift we can receive from God?

Social media contains many posts and memes stating in various forms, "God will bless you when/after/soon..."

However, you receive God's greatest blessing the moment you become a Christian; an eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We spend the rest of our lives maturing in this relationship.

This is the Greatest Blessing possible. Period. NO comparison of any measure or scale exists between the Creator and Creation.

An Olympic Gold medal, setting a world record, finishing in the top 50 at Boston, BQ'ing, OTQ'ing, a promotion, or any other earthly success is simply rubbish when compared to eternal life with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)

Perhaps you are wondering, "What must I do to be saved?"
A jailer once asked the same question.

"When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!'"

"And he (the jailer) called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”"

"They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house."

"And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household."

"And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household." (Acts 16:27–34)

Moreover, as a believer, enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (singular):
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

"Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

"Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22–26)."

This fruit immensely enhances your attitude and your relationship with others (family, friends, co-workers, customers, peers, etc).

Following devastating Tornadoes, the News often contains stories of those who heard the warnings and appropriately responded by taking shelter, as well as those who either ignored warnings or claim they never heard the warnings. One's responsibility and response makes all the difference.

For example, consider:
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:14–17)

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil."

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:18–21)

Once again, an eternal relationship with God through the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ provides an inner-peace and joy beyond human comprehension or adequate description.

This relationship is the Greatest Blessing of Life. #RunningonFaithMinistry

Running on Faith Ministry, Inc.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

How Should Christian Athletes / Runners View Injuries?

How do we make sense of and respond to injuries and other challenges in life?

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them (Psalm 139:16 —139 is a Wisdom Psalm of descriptive Praise).”

Trusting God’s sovereignty, rule and control over everything, is often easier said than endured; especially when His plans differ from ours. This Psalm and other Biblical illustrations of God’s reign over all of creation stabilize, encourage, and humble us in our perceived failures and successes.

“People try to deny God’s sovereignty to allow for randomness and evolution,” Dr. J. Lanier Burns, Sr. Professor of Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.

God simply expects us to trust Him (Prov 3:5-7) and keep our eyes heavenward (Php 3:13-14, 20) His wisdom far exceeds ours (Ro 11:34), therefore we lack the understanding to explain the greater purpose of challenges and victories while swimming in the sea of life. For example, in May 2015, I gratefully received a Pro Athlete entry into the USA Masters Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the Twin Cities Marathon on October 4, 2015.

My excitement and determination to succeed escalated. I continued listening to Lyle Claussen, my coach of twenty–five years while preparing for this marathon. I once avoided any injury for eleven consecutive years. My fitness level provided a realistic opportunity to challenge my twenty–year old personal best in the marathon.

I humbly and joyfully prayed throughout the training cycle to glorify God in every way. We glorify God through our faithful love, obedience (Mt 7:21), enduring suffering (Php 1:29, 3:8), and extending Christ’s mercy to others whether we achieve secular greatness or utterly fail.

Conversely, the world promotes the errant Prosperity Gospel, the belief that God’s favor results in worldly success and astounding performances.

The intense training provided soaring confidence the week of the marathon.

Race day finally arrived. I felt strong and fast! The crisp forty–two degree October air offered ideal racing conditions. Mentally, the first six miles passed like two. Portent of the remaining twenty miles, my Garmin gps watch permanently lost satellite reception about the same time as I stepped on uneven pavement in the curb while running the tangent around the curving road near the 10K marker. My left glute muscle began cramping.

I nearly quit the marathon at each of the remaining aide stations due to perpetual cramping and the resulting limping. Despite the diligent physical, mental, and spiritual preparation for this race, the last twenty miles were the most miserable of my 124,000 lifetime miles.

As I ran the final stretch along Summit Ave in St. Paul, MN, I continued Running on Faith, trusting that my race would glorify the Lord Jesus Christ regardless of my time or place (Php 1:12-14). Faith also in eternal life with God only through Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins for those who believe in Him (John 3:16-18).

Do you ever ask yourself something such as, “Why did this injury happen in this big race after all of my preparation?” Or, “Why does God allow suffering?”

The Bible, both in specific passages and as a whole, beautifully illustrates and assure us of God’s sovereignty. For example, Psalm 139:1-16 explains that God knows our thoughts and words before we know them; as well as the number and our activities of each of our days before we existed. We often struggle in life with understanding why God allows tough, seemingly impossible challenges; whether injuries, financial, relational, or loss of loved ones. The Bible also teaches that God’s wisdom far exceeds all of man’s wisdom (Job 38-41; Ro 11:34).

Dr. Chuck Swindoll succinctly summarized God’s sovereignty when I visited with him a few months later. “Rick, God knows the precise timing, placement, magnitude, duration, and effects of our every injury before we are born.”

God allows our suffering for purposes beyond our understanding. Our suffering reminds us of the suffering Christ endured while dying on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiven sins eternally restore each believer’s relationship with God.

However, due to my pride and ego, devastation struck for the next several hours after crossing the finish line. Because, I focused on my failure to achieve my goals instead of focusing on God’s greater plan established before I was born.

This includes glorifying Christ by remaining joyful, prayerful, and grateful (1 Thess 5:16-18) through suffering, such as enduring an unexplained injury during a major championship. My attitude brightened once I refocused on scripture and glorifying Christ in all circumstances.

Through diligently internalizing scripture and persistently praying, God directs the necessary thoughts and people into our lives to achieve His will. We obey with prudent action because we strive to please God whom we love (1Jn 4:19). The resulting journey and destination often differ from our original expectations.

Let’s examine a few other biblical examples of God’s sovereignty. For example, Zechariah (Lk 1:1-13) is chosen by lot (Prov 16:33) to serve as the priest to offer the incense in the temple where an angel informs him of God hearing his long-time prayer for a son, John the Baptist. Elizabeth gave birth to John six months before Mary delivered Jesus.

“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33).

Because approximately 18,000 priests vied for the position of entering the temple, priests were chosen only once in their lifetime. The prophet Isaiah (Is 40:3; Lk 3:4) announced the future arrival of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ approximately 725 years before Zechariah’s encounter with the angel (Isaiah prophesied from 742–701 BC).

Since God operates within His decreed and permitted will, how should we respond to life’s challenges and setbacks such as an injury that disrupts our dreams and goals?

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

We do so because we know loving God necessitates obeying Him, and because He is God, we trust Him (Romans 8:28).

God uses a variety of circumstances, including injuries to athletes, to transform us into His image, growing closer to His character—a lifelong process which we never complete.

Obviously, no athlete seeks or initially welcomes an injury. However, if or when you suffer another injury, remember that God knew about and permitted this injury, in this moment of time before the world knew about you.

Therefore, pray, rejoice, and give thanks. Ask God to reveal how this disappointment advances your spiritual maturity, deepens your relationship with and serving of Jesus Christ who offers salvation for all who believe in Him.

Ultimately, know that God loves you and reigns over your entire life. Expend your every ounce of energy in serving Jesus Christ whether performing at your highest level or enduring injuries.

Because, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17).”


Additional Bible Study:
Other Biblical examples of God's Sovereignty:
1 Samuel 9 -- Having grown-up on a Kansas farm, I don't recall any of us getting excited when livestock got out / lost.
Yet, isn't it amazing how God used Kish's donkeys getting lost to connect Saul and Samuel?

  1. What happened during today's Run or Race that God may use to direct you in serving Him?
    1. Who did you meet today?
    2. What did you learn about them?
    3. How may you serve them or someone they know?
    4. Record your thoughts during today's run. Share if appropriate
    5. Do today's thought topics, beyond running, correlate with past thoughts? If so, how, how many, frequency, common donominator on prompting this topic?

What else does the Bible say about Suffering:

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,

but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8–11)

"For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." (Philippians 1:29–30)
  • Are you willing to share in Christ's suffering?
  • How are you currently suffering for His sake?
  • How have you suffered for Christ in the past?
  • Does your type of suffering differ over time?
  • How does your suffering relate to other areas of your life?
  • Will changing anything in your training (or life) alleviate your suffering?
  • Who else do you see suffering for Christ? How are they suffering, from your perspective?