Tag Archives: marathon

Everyone Who Finishes, Wins

Today, you are officially 90 days into our 360 day epic journey through the Bible in a year. That means you’re a quarter of the way through. Congratulations!

You may feel a little ragged from the run, but you are stronger today than you were three months ago. And, you’re planting seeds into your soul that will yield a harvest for years to come.

If, for some reason, you’ve been forced to drop out of the race here or there, that’s okay too.

Everyone who finishes, wins.


Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 72:1-20
Proverbs 12:8-9


Deuteronomy 16. How fortuitous that we would read about Passover during Holy Week!

I never noticed this before, but Moses refers to the Passover bread as the “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). It’s the only time the phrase is used in Scripture. The “bread of affliction” refers to their time in slavery and deprivation while in bondage to Egypt. But it also symbolizes their deliverance from captivity and freedom.

The reason why the people couldn’t include yeast in their bread or the evening Passover sacrifice to remain until morning was because both symbolized the presence of spoilage.

The Feast of Weeks mentioned in verses 9-12 is better known as Pentecost.

In his summary of the Feast of Tabernacles, Moses tells the people to be joyful in the celebration and that as a result, their “joy will be complete.” This is the only time the phrase is used in the Old Testament, but it is used six times in the New Testament. If you want to learn more about how you joy can be complete, look up John 3:29; 15:11; 16:24; Philippians 2:2; 1 John 1:4; and 2 John 12.

Deuteronomy 17. Reading through the Pentateuch, it’s hard to escape the fact that our present laws governing western civilization are built upon Old Testament laws. First, God issues a command that judges must not take bribes. Then he says that no person can be put to death for doing evil in the eyes of the Lord except for the testimony of two or three witnesses. But most interesting (to me at least), if a person is put to death, the witness must be the first one to “pull the trigger,” so to speak. If the accuser is lying, then the he must wrestle with the guilt of putting another person to death for the rest of his life. That probably provided some kind of deterrent to false witnesses.

Reading over the rules concerning Israel’s future king in verses 14-20, I couldn’t help thinking about King Solomon, who violated these very commands.

Psalm 72. In case you didn’t notice, this psalm was written by King Solomon—one of only two psalms he contributed to this book. The other one is Psalm 127.

Reading through the psalm, however, it quickly becomes obvious that Solomon could never fulfill his request. Only through Jesus, the king of kings, could his request become reality.

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Although we’ve studied the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 earlier in the gospels, what struck me this time (Luke 9:10-17) was how Jesus’ disciples limited their leader. After watching Jesus calm the storm, cast out demons, and raise a little girl from the dead—and then ministering on Jesus’ behalf with the authority to drive out demons and heals diseases, they still doubted him.

We read that they reported to Jesus what they had done and then took a long, hard look at the large, hungry crowd.

“Send the crowd away,” they instructed Jesus.

“You give them something to eat,” he retorted.

“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

Despite their first-hand, front row seat watching Jesus in action, the disciples still limited him according to the confines of this temporal existence.

But Jesus is so much bigger than that!

And I’m no different than the disciples. So often when I encounter a problem, I try to solve it on my own rather than invite Jesus—the Lord of heaven and earth—into my difficulty.

Since returning from my getaway almost a week ago, I’ve felt extremely tired and lethargic. Granted, I hobbled through a marathon the week before, but my weariness was beyond explanation. While laying in bed at 2:30 this morning contemplating another day of exhaustion, I finally prayed Jesus, would you please deliver me from this lethargy?

And you know what? Today I felt 100%.

My recovery might be a coincidence, but then again, I might be assuming too little of Jesus.

Obviously, God is greater than any formula, but it prompts me to ask myself, How often do I respond to problems as if Jesus can do nothing to change them?

When I observe the interaction between Jesus and his disciples, it quickly becomes obvious that he continually tried to convince them that he was greater than their minds could conceive.

If you’re a disciple of Jesus, he’s probably trying to convince you of the same thing.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What everyday problems do you inadvertently leave Jesus out of? Why do you think you do this?
  3. How can you better include Jesus in your plans?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Finishing Well

My wife Kelley and I spent the last six days or so in Los Angeles to see our oldest daughter, Anna, who’s a sophomore at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. And since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to run in the Los Angeles Marathon. This was Kelley’s second marathon and my first. The video above shows the race from one person’s balcony.

In a departure from the norm, I’m going to share a few thoughts about the race that have absolutely nothing with today’s reading, but everything with following Jesus.

Please join me…

Thank to our guest bloggers who filled in most admirably in my absence. Eugene, Jeff, Mike, and Mark, thank you for allowing me to take a little break!


Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29
Luke 6:12-38
Psalm 67:1-7
Proverbs 11:27


Deuteronomy 2. The book of Deuteronomy comprises Moses’ last words to Israel before they crossed in the Promised Land. Like the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, it reads almost like a sermon transcription.

At this point in Deuteronomy, Moses is recounting Israel’s wilderness history up to the present moment. Recounting our past is important. All too often, our society functions as if we’re only 5-10 years old. But we are the sum total of our past. All of us bring our history—good and bad—into our present relationships.

Deuteronomy 3. Notice how God refers to King Og of Bashan in verse 2: “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land” (italics added). God refers to Israel’s defeat of Og as if it already occurred. In God’s economy, all of history is past tense. Even our current struggles. Hmmm, that gives me a different perspective on my struggles. I wonder how I would respond to my challenges if I treated them as past struggles?

Luke 6:12-38. This section is quite similar to Matthew 5-7. Matthew’s account contains the Sermon on the Mount. This account in Luke is called the Sermon on the Plain. Matthew tells us Jesus “went up on a mountainside and sat down” (Matthew 5:1). Luke tells us Jesus “stood on a level place” (verse 17). So are they one account or two? They’re probably versions of the same account, with each writer highlighting different aspects of Jesus’ sermon. Details specifying the location of Jesus’ sermon weren’t important to the people of that day—so making it fit exactly isn’t nearly as important as paying attention to Jesus’ words.

What strikes me in the Sermon on the Plain is the heavenward focus:

  • “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”
  • “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”

At the same time, the social ramifications of Luke’s gospel are quite evident:

  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
  • Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Proverbs 11:27. Books like The Secret tell us that we attract whatever we think. Although I have serious concerns about the book, I will say that the principle of good attracting good is for the most part, true. People who seek good, find goodwill. People who search for evil, find it.

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Running a marathon is probably the third hardest thing I’ve ever done—after writing a book (13 and counting) and being married. Here are a few thoughts that hit me during the run:

Every person runs a different race. Despite running the same 26.2 mile route, all 26,000 people ran the Los Angeles Marathon with different concerns in mind. I was concerned about re-tearing my calf (which I tore 2 weeks earlier). Kelley was concerned about aggravating the plantar fasciitis in her heel. Everyone was concerned about finishing. Ironically, my calf never bothered me while Kelley’s heel refused to cooperate. Nevertheless, I sustained a painful foot injury on mile 13 and hobbled the rest of the way to the end. Weird injuries can materialize out of nowhere.

Injuries happen. Days before the race, I explained my concerns about my calf injury to a veteran marathoner. She told me, “Everybody who runs a marathon is dealing with some kind of an injury.” Most of us begin our lives injury-free, only to sustain bumps and bruises along the way. We all get knocked around in the course of our lives. How we respond to those injuries determines how we finish the race.

Everyone who finishes wins. While training, veterans advised me, “Don’t try to break any records on your first race—just make it your goal to finish.” When my foot injury materialized out of nowhere, I asked myself, How will I ever run another 13 miles with this kind of pain? Everything within me wanted to quit. I actually considered spending the $20 in my pocket to pay for a cab that would transport me to the finish line.

In the middle of my pain, I ran past a café, where a man sat at a table enjoying his breakfast. When he saw the grimace on my face, he looked at me, pointed at an empty chair next to him and said, “Want to join me?” I shook my head and kept running.

I couldn’t think about mile 15 or mile 21—all I could think about was finishing. But in order to reach my goal, I would have to run one mile at a time. When I completed mile 13, my next goal became mile 14, then mile 15.

Although my time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, I was relieved once I crossed the finish line. At that point, my time didn’t matter. I finished. Sometimes life is painful…but you just keep going on.

We’re all in a race, but the goal isn’t to beat everybody else, the goal is to finish. Sometimes you just have to bear down and work through the pain. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is stand. You don’t have to look victorious–all you must do is not give up.

We all run re in a race. We all sustain injuries along the way and we all can come up with excuses to quit.

So what will you do?


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you were in Moses’ shoes, what last words would you leave with the children of Israel?
  3. How you would respond to your challenges if you treated them as past struggles?
  4. What social implications do you read in Luke 6? What do they look like lived out in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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