Friday, September 28, 2012

Today's Workout

Went with a 6 exercises circuit done twice today in the 18 seconds of work and 27 seconds of rest format.

--Front barbell squats
--Overhead barbell press
--Cross-body mountain-climbers
--Split-Lung Jumps

No Resting on Laurels

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Luke 11:27-28 While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

Lineage, shared history and even former engagement are not as important as active participation.

Application: Resting on Laurels is not something that is smiled upon in God’s kingdom—at least according to Jesus. Elsewhere he will say that from stones he can raise up children of Abraham. In the passage above it’s clear that even Jesus’ own mother is meant to live in the way of God and not to simply bask in her messiah parenting.

The message is pretty much eternal; today is another day and opportunities for faithful service abound.

In the name of Christ, let’s get on with it.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for ne opportunities every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Zechariah 1-3 and Luke 11)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finding Joy in the Harvest

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Luke 10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Observation: Even Jesus saw the need for a little help.

Application: These are interesting times in ministry. There is much to celebrate, but there is also more than sufficient evidence that things are not as they once were and that new approaches to ministry are in fact needed. Across much of the spectrum of ministry are trends of people who feel over-committed and over-whelmed with life and who see church primarily as a place and/or community of respite rather than as a place and/or community in and through which to serve.

In reality, church is meant to be both. As Jesus said to those who might have preferred a little more respite, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Interestingly enough, once the seventy were sent out, they actually found JOY in their serving! So it’s not as if there isn’t a sense of fulfillment that comes along with service. Still, not everyone sees it that way and we don’t always promote such opportunities that way either.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see and be inspired by the harvest that awaits. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Haggai 1-2, Psalm 129, and Luke 10)

Once there were two people working out at the track...

After dropping our son off for show choir practice I went to the track for another 9-minute workout, this time focusing on some moves that combine aerobic training with a touch of agility. Each move was done for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest before beginning the next move.

--1/2 speed sprint
--cross-overs to the right
--cross-overs to the left
--3/4 speed sprint
--side-hops to the right
--side-hops to the left
--deep bunny-hops (like a squat-jump, only moving in a forward motion)
--side-hops to the right
--side-hops to the left
--3/4 speed sprint
--cross-overs to the right
--cross-overs to the left

Or something like that since I made this workout up on the fly.

I remember that the bunny-hops were killers. I also remember that doing cross-overs is great at the beginning of a workout, but are a bit of a risky move toward the end of the workout when fatigue begins to set in. Had to be careful not to lose my footing. But they are a great agility move and also stimulate what some people call the 'fast-twitch' muscle fibers.

By the way, while I was working out there was another person who was just running around the track. I'll give him credit for being focused, diligent about keeping up his pace, and for exercising in the first place. Still, I was finished with my workout in less than half the time and my yearly physicals give me every reason to believe that my short-but-focused workouts are every-bit as effective as regular running from a cardiovascular standpoint (my blood-pressure and resting heart rate regularly prompt medical personnel to assume I'm a "runner.") and even more so from a fitness standpoint since the wider variety of moves in my workout trump just doing the same thing over and over again for lap after lap, mile after mile.

Now, if you like that sort of thing, and I know that many of you do, than I most certainly wish you well. But for those of you who are not so fond of traditional running, or simply want some short and effective workouts to slip in between your major running days...I'm here to say that there are indeed other very viable options.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Today's Workout

Went with 3 rounds of a 4-exercise set this morning for another 9-minute full-body workout to stay fit. As always, each exercise was performed for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest before beginning the next exercise. In parenthesis below are the number of reps that I was usually able to crank out in the 18-second work periods.

--Neutral-grip Pull-ups with knee-ups (usually 6 reps)
--Front Barbell Squats (10-12 reps)
--1-leg push-ups (usually about 8 reps/side)
--Split-Lunge Jumps (usually about 16 reps, alternating sides)

The Pastor as Salesperson

Scripture Passage that Caught My attention Today: Luke 9:1-6 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5 Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Observation: Jesus sent the disciples out. They didn’t get to just hang out with him all the time.

Application: yesterday I was reading about how important the art of selling is in society. Everyone, in a sense, is selling something. They may or may not be very good at selling, but they are still selling. They are selling themselves, their abilities, their intellect, their compassion, and perhaps their goods and services. It’s just how the world works.

The disciples were sent out to sell. They were selling the kingdom of God and healing services. They didn’t get rich doing it. In fact, some time later they will lose their lives over the deals. But they were still selling.

I think pastors are salespeople too. Among other things, we are selling the belief that life with God is infinitely better than life without God, that life lived in Christ is infinitely better than a life lived outside of Christ.

We may or may not be very good at selling such things, and for a variety of reasons we might recoil at the comparison between ministry and sales, but it is the nature of our service. We are a sales-force of all sorts that has not only been called, but also sent.

Prayer: Lord, help us to make sure that the offer of you and all that you are is always on the table. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezra 4, Psalm 113 and Psalm 127, and Luke 9)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Was gone for the weekend to take our eldest to college and say good-bye as this new chapter in his life unfolds. The hotel had a small workout room with a few cardio machines and one weight machine, all right there in the lobby with big glass windows for the world to see in.

Not surprisingly, I chose to do my own thing, this time opting for a more private workout in a stairwell.

Just two exercises made up the entire workout (using my new 18 seconds of work followed by 27 seconds of rest routine), namely:

--Stairwell mountain-climbers (cross body for some and outside elbow for others)

Burpees are basically a push-up followed by bringing one's fee forward to for a vertical jump followed by another push-up. It's admittedly a more intense move than some would want to try. Usually I could get 5 burpees completed in 18 seconds.

I did 6 rounds of the circuit which made for a 9-minute workout.

As for this morning, I just did 12 rounds of jumping rope. Didn't even go real hard at it till the last 4 or 5 rounds. Was a short night after we got home.

Who do you know?

Note: was a vacation weekend to take son to college. Just got back late last night. Finally getting back to devotions (didn't have internet at our hotel for some reason but weren't there much anyhow).

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Observation: Joanna was the spouse of Herod’s steward. I had not noticed this before.

Almost any movement includes some sort of connection to someone in high power. The powers that be may or may not be supportive of the movement, but they still play a role. There were some people of high estate in Martin Luther’s day some 500 years ago that were instrumental in making it possible for him to both live and contribute toward the movement of which he was an integral part.

I wonder what it was like for Joanna when the situation heated up in regard to Jesus. Chuza almost certainly knew some of the stirrings in the palace related to Jesus. Sometime later we will read, in chapter 13, that the Pharisees (also surprising supporters in this case) warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. Surely Chuza knew such things as well, as did, we might assume, Joanna. Much has been written about Judas betraying Jesus, but what of Joanna betraying Herod? Life is quite the tangled web, is it not?

Lord, it’s always interesting to see how our various connections pan out over time. We give you thanks for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezra 2-3 and Luke 8)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today's Workout

Today’s exercise was simply a warm-up routine followed by 12 rounds of jumping rope.
I say “simply,” but it’s not totally simple—in just 9 minutes I worked up a real good sweat.

The Day Has Come

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Luke 5:34-35 Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

Observation: Jesus rightly observed that there are appropriate times to celebrate and other times to fast or mourn.

Today we as a family take our eldest off to college for the first time. The actual ‘good bye’ isn’t till Sunday or Monday (I forget which, but there is an official good-bye ceremony/tradition at this university), but it is most definitely on the horizon. I’m not convinced that we will begin ‘fasting’ on the long drive home, but it’s hard to imagine having any feeling other than a profound sense of emptiness on that occasion. We’ve been preparing him for this day since day one. Unfortunately, we’re probably not emotionally prepared for this day ourselves. I’m not sure we even want to be prepared.

The van is mostly packed and this time of devotion is important, not necessarily because any particularly wise words have been or will be offered, but because I just need this time. Last night we had our last evening, at least for a while, of prayer as a family. I read the first 14 verses of Psalm 139 before our prayer. Not long after the good-night hugs and such, I saw him move his Lutheran Study Bible to his pile of last minute things to take. I know it was on his list of things to take anyhow, but somehow seeing it moved right after our devotional time was personally comforting. Even in this exciting time in his life he’s liable to have a touch of an empty feeling too. In faith he is connected to the One who can actually fill it.

Prayer: Lord, whether celebrating or experiencing some form of ‘fasting,’ let your kingdom come and your will be done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 9-10, Psalm 123 and Luke 5)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today's Workout

Just a 3-exercise circuit, repeated 4 times, made up today's 9-minute workout. This workout had less intensity than many of my workouts, but still offered a full-body exercise experience.

Here are the 3 exercises in the circuit

--Dumbbell squat (deadlift) to overhead-press combo
--Ab-Wheel roll-outs
--Turkish Get-ups

1) all exercises were done for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest.
2) Turkish Get-ups require quite a bit of time. I could only get in 3 reps per set. So on the next set I would simply start with the other arm and leg.
3) I used two 25# dumbbells for the first squat/overhead press combo. I used one 20# dumbbell for the Turkish Get-ups.

How to Spend a Life

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Luke 4:42-44 At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

Observation: Jesus often found the early morning to be a good time either for prayer or to be alone. It helped keep him centered and allowed him to dictate to his day more so than having the day dictate to him.

Application: Early mornings are not easy to accomplish with a family that tends to stay up late. Still, whenever I can get a start to the day with quiet and solitude, I’m usually able to be more proactive as the day unfolds. There might not be any less surprise, but there is less outright diversion because all diversions are weighed in relation to preset plans.

The people in Jesus’ day wanted to direct him. Fortunately he was ahead of the game and had developed preset plans and priorities. At times those plans were interrupted and Jesus would oblige. But in other cases, as indicated in the verses above, his own plans held sway. He was always open to impromptu opportunities, but not ruled by them. And his greater purpose/calling was always kept in mind. That’s a good way to live.

Prayer: Lord, help me to continue to be more and more intentional and mindful of how your gift of my earthly life is spent. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 7-8, Psalm 137, and Luke 4)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It can be as simple as this...

I usually designate Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as my main resistance-training days, be it with strictly body-weight exercises or the inclusion of dumbbells and/or barbells. It's a combination strength and cardio training.

On, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays I usually omit any use of weights and focus solely on a little cardio training, with the degree of intensity determined by how the mood strikes me.

Today's cardio was simple. I simply got on the exercise bike (which, incidentally, I haven't used in months) and just did 12 rounds of hard and fast pedaling for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of light and slow pedaling.

A mere nine minutes later I was done with my workout and feeling totally winded and triumphant all at the same time.

Those are three signs of my kind of workout.

Quick. Intense (but doable). Exhilarating.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just 4 Exercises and 9 Minutes was all it took

Today's simple workout took advantage of a couple of compound movements to offer a full-body workout in surprisingly little time.

Here are the four moves, each done for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest before the next move, with the entire set repeated two more times.

--Chin-ups with knee-ups
--Front Barbell Squats followed by overhead-press
--Ab-wheel roll-outs.

The hardest part is chin-up move by the time you get to the third set.

How Did Jesus Increase in Divine Favor?

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Observation: I can understand Jesus increasing in wisdom and in human favor, but how does Jesus increase in divine favor?

Application: My thoughts today on this subject are purely conjecture, an overlay of human ways of thinking upon the divine. I could be completely wrong. But what follows below is the only way that I with my feeble human mind can envision Jesus increasing in divine favor…

I think it’s somewhat like our own children. When they are born we love them even though we don’t really know them. As they grow, we grow in our love for them because we are cultivating a shared history of their development. Each milestone of accomplishment becomes yet another memory, another shared-and-often proud moment. So it’s not that we really love them more, but there is now more of them, so to speak, to love. More memories…more experiences…more of them.

So perhaps as time went on, God had more of Jesus to love. Hence he increased in divine favor.

Prayer: Lord, these are just my thoughts and, at the end of the day, they don’t even matter that much. What is more important is the fact that through Christ we are now in your favor. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 47-48 and Luke 2)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

today's workout

Went to local college/community track this morning after dropping of son at show choir practice before school. Did a lower-intensity workout and also made a strategic mistake I'll not do again!

The goal this morning was simply to run 12 18-second sprints with 27 seconds of rest in between. However, for a variety of reasons, I chose to go at about 1/2 speed rather than 3/4. Just wanted to get my body moving.

All was going well for the first 8 sprints.

Then it started to rain.

No problem. The stadium is probably 50 or so yards long, and so I just did modified sprints underneath the stadium. But on rep 10 I thought I'd do split-lung jumps instead of a sprint.

Bad idea.

Split lunge jumps combine a very deep stretch and an explosive movement. To do that kind of exercise so late in one's workout when muscle fatigue is setting in was not not a good move on my part. It doesn't hurt bad (at least not yet!), but I immediately felt as if I might have pulled a muscle or at least over-worked one.

The older we get, the more important it is to exercise with smart intensity, not reckless abandon. I should have known better. Now we all do.

Keep moving!

Ancient Parenting Questions

Scripture Passage that Caught My Attention Today: Luke 1:80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Observation: I’ve usually interpreted “strong in spirit” as a spiritual thing in relation to John, and I would still maintain that is true. But it appears in later accounts of his life that he was strong-willed too.

Application: All three of our children are pretty strong-willed, though each in their own way. I think they are strong in spirit too and I pray that my reading on that is correct.

For John, being ‘strong in spirit’ led to a rather out-of-the-ordinary life. I can’t help but wonder what it was like to be his parents and what life was like for them around home while ‘the child grew.’ Was he constantly challenging them or was he completely obedient? Did they worry about him or were they completely content with his life choices?

Zechariah and Elizabeth were people of faith, so I doubt that they questioned his calling. But I wonder if they ever questioned the way he went about his calling. And did they have verbal tussles about such things at home?

I’ll never know the answers to those questions in this life and, thankfully, they are not so pressing as to keep me up at night. But I do know what it’s like to be a parent. Being a parent, at times, does involve being up at night for any number of reasons, be it late-night catching up on the happenings of the day, a middle-of-the-night feeding, or a toss and turn or two out of worry or concern, to name a few. Since Zechariah and Elizabeth knew what it was like to have a child who is ‘strong in spirit,’ I guess I’d like to think that they and I might have something in common.

Prayer: Lord, parenting offers the full gamut of experience. Let us find grace in it all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 45-46 and Luke 1)

Monday, September 17, 2012


Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Revelation 22:20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Observation: The writer of Revelation understood the coming of Jesus to be a good thing.

Application: Many interpret Revelation to be a message of gloom and doom. However, the heart of this book is the glory that comes with worshipping God and experiencing the eternal presence of God. Far from being a time of turmoil, in God’s presence the powers of this world are rendered powerless. In God’s presence the tumultuous sea is transformed into something like glass, clear as crystal, not to be feared anymore. So when John is told that Jesus is coming soon, John could only respond, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

One of the challenges of the Christian life is to always embrace the future that is in God’s hands. That includes our daily futures here on earth and, of course, our eternal future with God.

It’s understandable. Some of our daily futures involve a fair amount of pain and heartache. Yet ironically we also have a tendency to cling to life on earth and do all we can to delay our entrance to life eternal through the gate of death. We are a complicated lot!

No matter. God has seen our kind before and is fully prepared to help us through this transition from one life to another in God’s own due time.

It might surprise some to know that “Amen” means “Yes, it shall be so.”

Prayer: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 42-44 and Revelation 22)

A Heart-Pumper of a Workout

Working again with another one of my 9-minute workouts that combines strength training with heart-pumping cardio.

After my standard warm-up the workout went as follows, with each exercise being performed for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest.

--Front Barbell Squats
--Renegade Rows (push-up position with hands on dumbbells. Row the dumbbells)
--Split-Lunge Jumps

Repeat the set above and then follow with:

--Cross-body Mountain-Climbers
--Vertical Jumps with Knee-ups
--Allegator Push-ups (also known as walking push-ups) with feet on skateboard
--Overhead Dumbbell Presses.

Done! Great Workout!

Friday, September 14, 2012

New Workout Variation

Tried another variation of my current exercise plan/program this morning and it worked well. Each exercise is performed for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest before moving on to the next exercise. After the warm-up it went like this:

--Neutral-Grip pull-ups with knee-ups
--Front Barbell Squats
--Spider-man push-ups
--1-leg Stability Ball Curls

Repeat set 1X and then move on to one round of the following:

--Split-lung Jumps
--Outside-elbow Mountain-Climbers
--Bent-over Dumbbell Rows
--Ab-Wheel Roll-outs

Bonus Finishing Exercise: 10 Turkish Get-ups (5/side) with 20# Dumbbell.

Because Sometimes it Does Matter What the Neighbors Think

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Ezekiel 36:22 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.

Observation: Reminds me of a line in the Lord’s Prayer (“Hallowed be thy name”) and Martin Luther’s explanation of that phrase.

Application: To explain the phrase “Hallowed be Thy Name,” Martin Luther said that “God’s name certainly is holy in and of itself, but we ask in this prayer that we may keep it holy.”

Back in Ezekiel’s day God’s name was holy too. Unfortunately, the people weren’t doing their part to keep it holy, to honor God in relation to the honor that God was due. So God didn’t perform mighty acts in response to the people’s change of heart. Rather, even before their hearts could change, God acted in order that God’s own name might be understood in a positive light. So even though it is not wise to base our actions solely on what other people might think, it is worth at least considering what other people might think, at least in relation to how it might portray the God we claim to worship. God cares about such things and, in that respect and many others, we are not an island unto ourselves. Never have been. Never will be.

Prayer: Lord, help us to live in ways that demonstrate our dependence on you and our thanksgiving to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 36-37, Psalm 110, and Revelation 19)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

There's an App for That

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Ezekiel 34:11-13 For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

Observation: God will find a way to do what we have been unable and/or unwilling to do.

Application: Shepherd imagery comes up periodically in the Scriptures. Ultimately we find that ‘the Lord is our Shepherd’ when we read the Psalms. Jesus calls himself the shepherd. Why? Perhaps because, when it comes to shepherding, human shepherds haven’t done such a great job.

Thankfully, as they say, “there’s an app for that!” Yes, the grace of God through Christ, when applied to our lives, cures a multitude of ailments including what might be one of the worst of them all, apathy for God’s other children—God’s other sheep that are still part of God’s fold.

Lord, help us to love and care for each other as you care for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings today included: Ezekiel 33-35 and Revelation 18)

"Mixin' It Up" Workout

Went to the track this morning after dropping off our son for Show Choir practice at 7:00 a.m. Overcast morning around 65 degrees, no wind. Pretty much perfect.

Decided to do a variety of things this morning within a 9-minute time-frame following my regular warm-up. The rest of the workout included 18-second bursts of the following exercises with 27 seconds of rest between each exercise.

--Walking Lunge Jumps
--Walking Lunge Jumps
--Walking Lunge Jumps
--Side-ways running cross-overs
--Side-ways running cross-overs
--Ladder climbs (there was a set of scaffolding at the track)
--Ladder climbs

That was it. Walked around the track once as a cool-down and headed for home to get on with the rest of the day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Because Today We are Burying another Pastor

Today is the funeral for a beloved elderly Lutheran pastor in our area. I didn't really know him very well, per se, but I definitely knew of him and had met him many times over the last several years. He was the epitome of graciousness.

I do not really know what he "accomplished" during his ministry. Perhaps some of those stories will come out today. I don't know what churches he served, how well those churches 'prospered,'whether those churches are doing well now, or anything else, really, about his 'ministry.'

I really only know two things about his personal life. Make that 3. First, he was very hard of hearing. Telephone conversations were tough. Second, he was incredibly dedicated to taking care of his wife up to her dying day. Third, as I already mentioned, he was incredibly gracious in the way he spoke to/with you. He didn't even really know me, but whenever we would chat for just a few minutes (which was probably about all we ever talked) he seemed to care about me as if we'd been companions forever.

Our synod and bishop have suggested that what really matters in life is that people see in us something about us being signs of and participants in the in-breaking of God in the world.

These signs are sometimes subtle. Sometimes they are linked to what people perceive to be great earthly accomplishments and sometimes not. What is apparent through these kinds of people is a sense that God's grace is both sufficient and at hand. Through such people we can feel this truth, even in the shaking of their hand and the exchanging of but a few pleasantries.

I guess I would hope, by the end of my own life, that I will have figured out how to so naturally convey such things as well.

Gotta Love the Story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Daniel Chapter 3: King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Dan. 3:8 Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
Dan. 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
Dan. 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
Dan. 3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, 20 and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
Dan. 3:24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Observation: Nebuchadnezzar was quite a guy and Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego were really quite inspiring. Nebuchadnezzar changed his mind like the wind. He set up his statue for worship and he got so enraged with those who wouldn’t worship it that his face got distorted! Then, when the three who wouldn’t worship his statue were saved, he suddenly switched his allegiances and declared our God as the one true God.

For their part, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were impressive in the way that the didn’t get defensive but simply proclaimed how things would be…they placed their complete trust in God to do whatever God wanted to do.

Application: People are funny. We all are. Just watching how we react to situations, change our minds over time, and the like has got to be humorous footage for the Almighty. We get so upset about some things but then do an about face, sometimes without even realizing it. We let our own faces get distorted in fits of pontification only to later realize (if we’re lucky!) the extent to which we have become fools.

What I appreciate most about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the fact that they had no axes to grind and no real points to prove. Instead they were simply rooted in solid principles of faith which continued to guide them in difficult times. From the story one would be hard-pressed to even imagine a fight on their part. They entrusted themselves to the will of God, whether that meant rescue and deliverance in the present or in some future realm. In their eyes no mere earthly king could successfully vie for the only kingdom that really matters. We too would do well to keep such things in mind.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for your kingdom that, in the Lord’s prayer, we pray will come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings today included: Daniel 3-4, Psalm 81, and Revelation 17)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflections on Foolish Leadership Through the Ages

Scripture Verses that Caught My Attention Today: Daniel 2:5-6 The king answered the Chaldeans, “This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.”

Observation: Just because people are in power doesn’t necessarily mean they are wise. The king was making an impossible request that, aside from divine intervention through Daniel, would have assured widespread destruction.

I shudder to think of all the destruction that has been done in the world through the ages at the whims of people in power making foolish decrees. Sometimes this foolishness is well-intentioned. Other times it’s just plain childish or even hateful. Either way, real lives are at stake.

On this day those of us who live in the United States are especially mindful of what seemed to many of us to be a childish and/or hateful act in the form of hijacking airliners and crashing them into strategic points of interest at the cost of many lives. There are also those who feel that the way in which our government responded to those acts of terrorism were horrific in their own way and also came at the cost of many lives.

Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that we live in a broken world filled with broken people. All of us share in that dilemma because, however wise or foolish we may be, each of us is still broken at some level. In light of that fact, my prayer is simply that God might somehow minimize the damage we do in our foolishness (however well-intended) and eventually bring about the total healing and restoration so desperately needed by all.

Lord, you’ve heard my prayer. Now help me to hear yours. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 1-2, Revelation 16)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Great Little Medium-intensity workout

Just six exercises today, done twice, that in 9 minutes provided a time-effective workout of all the major muscle groups.

Warm-up followed by:

--Neutral-grip pull-ups
--Barbell squats
--Bench Press
--Bulgarian Split Squats
--Ab-Wheel roll-outs
--1-leg Stability-ball curls

Did each exercise for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest before engaging in the next exercise. I did the entire circuit twice, which made for a 9-minute workout.

For me this workout was of medium intensity. It wasn't a piece of cake, but neither did it totally wipe me out. It felt great to complete.

Something Deeper than Just Positive Thinking

Scripture Passage that Caught My Attention Today: Lamentations 3:19-23 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

Lam. 3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Observation: Times were admittedly tough, but the author of Lamentations still had hope.

Application: I’m not a big fan of the power of positive thinking, at least not in the rah, rah/cheer, cheer/everything’s-just-fine sense of the concept. It seems to me that an honest person needs to face situations in an honest way. Real concerns need to be noted. Things do not always work out just fine or in a way that is devoid of heart-ache.

But by the same token, things are seldom as bleak as they might appear either. Even in the midst of outright devastation there is still space, if one will allow for it, for hope and promise.

The writer of Lamentations understood such things. Times were tough. It would do no good to pretend otherwise.

But being realistic, the writer of Lamentations also allowed space for at least one thought of promise—“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

This, we are told, is what he called to mind. This is what gave him hope. A simple pair of verses—most likely from a song of faith in his day or at least intentionally set in prose—that he could summon up for consideration whenever things seemed especially dark.

That’s the kind of positive thinking that refuses to ignore, for example, that the way of life often includes the way of suffering just as surely as Jesus himself took the path that led him to the cross. But it also refuses to ignore the fact that although the way of suffering may at times be our path, it is not our destination.

That’s something, through Christ, that I like to call to mind. It is for that reason that I have such hope.

Prayer: Lord, whatever challenges we may at times face, help us to nevertheless put our trust in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Lamentations 3-5 and Revelations 15)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

1 Rototiller + 1 Person + 1 Timer = Great Workout

Today's workout was unconventional to be sure, but highly effective nonetheless.

Basically it was a sled-pushing workout except that I don't own a sled. But I do own a rototiller which, when placed in neutral (and NOT running) pushes with a fair amount of resistance.

So I got out my gymboss timer, kept it set for 18-second and 27-second intervals, and got to work.

After the warm-up I pushed the rototiller 12 times for 18 seconds with 27 second rest periods between each 18-second push.

Wiped me out...but in a good way!

On with the day!

Good Advice?

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Jeremiah 42:3-4 Let the LORD your God show us where we should go and what we should do.” 4 The prophet Jeremiah said to them, “Very well: I am going to pray to the LORD your God as you request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you; I will keep nothing back from you.”

Observation: the people said they wanted to know what the Lord wanted them to do. And Jeremiah promised to tell them what the Lord wanted. But if one reads on, the people did not listen to what the Lord, through Jeremiah, spoke.

Application: The world is full of people who ask for advice but then don’t take it. Granted, not all advice is good and all advice must be weighed and measured. We are responsible for ourselves, after all, at least in terms of our actions and decisions. Yet there is plenty of good advice out there that we flat-out ignore, perhaps because we have settled into our own way of doing things or our own mindset and are not willing to summon up the gumption necessary to, well, change.

I’m guilty of this myself in some areas and I’m willing to wager that you probably are too.

For whatever reason, the people of Jeremiah’s day had it in their head that they had to go to Egypt to be spared. Yet the word of the Lord indicated that just the opposite was the case. It’s easy to second-guess this situation from afar, but part of me sympathizes with them. Decisions are sometimes hard and the benefit of hindsight seldom comes when you really need it. Still, they asked for a word from the Lord and even received a word from the Lord but refused to believe it. I’d like to think I would have handled it differently, but who knows, maybe I’d have done the same thing.

Prayer: Lord, the saving grace is not that we always do the right thing but, rather, that you ARE the right thing. You are the one in whom trust can be placed. Help us to trust in you regardless of how wise or unwise our decisions and mindsets might be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Jeremiah 42-44, Psalm 48, and Revelation 13)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Today's Workout

Great workout today at the picnic shelter house at the local park. Did another 9-minute routine that I had to modify slightly on the last set because, well, I couldn't do anymore chin-ups! But when I was all done I suddenly realized why...I had gotten confused and did 4 sets when I only meant to do 3 sets! Oh well...if you see extra muscle on me sometime, you'll know why! :)

Anyhow, here was the workout after a brief warm-up: Each exercise was performed for 18 seconds followed by a 27 second rest before the next exercise. Even though the exercises are grouped in "sets", there is still only 27 seconds rest between every exercise. There is no extra rest between sets.

--Chin-ups with Knee-ups (while hanging from the rafters)
--Box Jumps (onto seat of picnic bench)
--Inverted Rows from rafters

--Chin-ups with Knee-ups (while hanging from the rafters)
--Box Jumps (onto seat of picnic bench)
--Inverted Rows from rafters

--Chin-ups with Knee-ups (while hanging from the rafters)
--Box Jumps (onto seat of picnic bench)
--Inverted Rows from rafters

(Extra, unintended set)
--Cross-Body Mountain climbers (couldn’t do any more chin-ups!)
--Box Jumps (onto seat of picnic bench)
--Inverted Rows from rafters


Scripture Passage that Caught My Attention today: Revelation 12:15-16 Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

Observation: The Lord provided for the woman, absorbing all the wrath that the serpent endeavored to pour out.

Earlier this week, in a separate little spiritual discipline, I reflected on materials of absorption. I noted that we need absorbing materials at times to soak up spills or even just plain old sweat.

In the passage above it is the earth that absorbs the river from the dragon. And in Christ we have God’s son absorbing, as it were, the sins of the whole world. Years earlier it was the prophet Isaiah who, referring to the suffering servant said, “by his wounds we are healed and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Absorption. It’s a work of God for the benefit of us.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for absorbing all that is wrong within and through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 2 Kings 25, Jeremiah 40-41, Revelation 12)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Today's Workout and Why I'm not Doing P90X

It was a beautiful morning and a "cardio-only" day for me, so I chose to do 12 18-second sprints up and down our long lane with 27 seconds rest in between. I ran the sprints at about 3/4 speed. That adds up to only a 9-minute work-out! Hard to beat that combination of efficiency and effectiveness.

By the way, I had my yearly physical (with a few "extras" since I've crossed the big Five-O) the other day and the results were really good. The lab results were excellent and the blood pressure and resting heart rate once again prompted the technician to ask me if I was a 'runner' since they were so good.

The doctor asked me the same thing and, when I said I just do my own thing, she wondered if I did P-90X.

Nope. Not gonna do it. P90X is fine for those who want or can spend an hour or so on their workouts. I won't argue that. But for the last several years I've gotten similar results from workouts that last no more than 18 minutes. And for the last few weeks I've been conducting a little personal experiment developing a possible exercise program that takes just 9 minutes a day and--get this--only about 3 1/2 actual minutes of exercise!

It sounds crazy, but from what I can tell thus far, it really works. Stay tuned...and toned!

Who is the Real MAKER?

Scripture Verses that Caught my Attention today: Ezekiel 29:2-3 Mortal, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; 3 speak, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:
I am against you,
Pharaoh king of Egypt,
the great dragon sprawling
in the midst of its channels,
saying, “My Nile is my own;
I made it for myself.”

Observation: The king of Egypt had forgotten that he was just a human.

The lessons these last few days seem to revolve, in part, around a false or over-rated sense of personal accomplishment and pride. The above lesson is a case-in-point. “My Nile is my own; I made it for myself” is about as brash as one can get.

I’m 50. This morning I ran 12 18-second sprints at around ¾ speed up and down our 1/3-mile lane. Not bad for my age. I’m very grateful to still be able to do things like that. But this is still not really MY body. It’s on loan to me and, although it is currently in pretty decent shape, it only takes one fall or slip or accident or even disease to change things in a hurry. I’m reminded of author Jim Collins telling of his wife being diagnosed with cancer even when she was in the height of her physical condition.

Rivers, bodies, money, relationships…they are all ours only in the form of loan.

Thankfully, should we ever happen to forget such basic principles, the Lord will almost assuredly offer a subtle or not-so-subtle reminder.

Lord, help us to always see you, as an old version of the Apostles’ Creed puts it, as the “maker of heaven and earth.” In that way we can hopefully then see ourselves as simple stewards of what you have been so gracious as to provide. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 29-32 and Revelation 11)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Today's Workout

Warm-up followed by:

--Side Plank
--Side Plank (other side)
--Regular Plank
--Inverted Rows
--Outside-elbow Mountain-Climbers
--Inverted Rows
--Outside-elbow Mountain-Climbers
--Inverted Rows
--Cross-Body Mountain-Climbers


Pride Vs Thanksgiving

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Ezekiel 28:5 By your great wisdom in trade
you have increased your wealth,
and your heart has become proud in your wealth.

The problem wasn’t really the wealth so much as the pride in the wealth. That makes it a false god.

Application: There is such a fine but important line between pride and simple thanksgiving. Pride in one’s own accomplishments tends to create division—self-perception of me vs them.

“I did this, whereas they were only able to do that…so there!”

This type of thinking, however subtly disguised, is most certainly natural but not particularly helpful. It’s definitely not loving and tends to reveal false securities as well. For example, would someone who has ‘accomplished’ whatever it is that he or she has accomplished suddenly think less of him or herself if it was all suddenly taken away?

Our mind plays tricks on us. The mind can convince us that we are better than we really are and it can also convince us that we are worse than we really are. Either extreme is a travesty.

Only in Christ can we see ourselves for who we really are—sinners who are nevertheless marked by the cross of Christ and claimed by this crucified and risen one to live our lives rooted in him…seeing our ultimate value in relation to what he has done for us and continues to do for us.

In such things there is no room for pride, though there is plenty of room for expressions of thanksgiving.

Prayer: Lord, help us to let go of our pride and claim our reasons for thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 25-28 and Revelation 10)

Moving Forward by Faith

(Forgot to post this yesterday. Sorry.)

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Ezekiel 24:18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

Observation: Sometimes the prophets suffered painful realities themselves.

Application: I know of at least two bishops who have gone through extremely difficult times with members of their respective family. One had a son who took his own life. Another had a son who was so challenging at home that his parents had no choice but to entrust him to the courts.

Those must have been extremely challenging times for these bishops. Many other bishops and pastors have worked their way through similar experiences. The same of course is true for a great many laypersons who have their own stories to share.

I’m not necessarily equating prophets and bishops and pastors together, but the fact remains that Christian leadership brings its own challenges, sometimes especially close to home. While I certainly hope and pray that I won’t have to go through the same kind of experiences as some of my esteemed colleagues, if I do go through those types of experiences, I pray that I will, like them, receive just enough grace to help me through such a profound time of need.

Prayer: Lord, you say that your grace is sufficient. That’s what we’re all counting on. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings included: Ezekiel 22-24 and Revelation 9)

Monday, September 3, 2012


Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Psalm 111:1 Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Observation: Thanksgiving is a good way to start the day.

Application: Recently I’ve begun a practice of journaling down three things I’m thankful for near the beginning of the day, usually right after devotions. The thanksgivings that come to mind are for things big and small. Sometimes I think being thankful for little things is best. Simple pleasures or things that bring a smile to one’s face serve as gentle reminders that we are not our own but were bought with a price. Thanksgiving need not be limited to a holiday in November.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to be thankful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 20-21, Psalm 111, and Revelation 8)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stepping up to Fitness

This morning's workout took advantage of the local football stadium. I simply ran up the stairs (raising knees up moderately high) for 18 seconds and then down the stairs for 27 seconds. I repeated that process 12 times for a 9-minute workout.

The Word of the Lord?

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Ezekiel 15:1 The word of the LORD came to me:

Observation: This phrase is both audacious and common in Ezekiel. The phrase occurs 62 times in the Bible and the vast majority of them are in Ezekiel (49 occurrences) and Jeremiah (10).

Application: True, I’m a preacher, but I still wonder how one can say with assurance, “the word of the Lord came to me.” However, in some ways it is less audacious than the 428 occurrences of it’s cousin phrase “thus says the Lord.” The latter is present tense, whereas the former is in the past tense.

There have perhaps been times when I have looked back over something I’ve said and felt that perhaps what I had spoken (often without even realizing it at the time) was the word of the Lord. So I guess it does seem feasible to look back and consider various things spoken that seemed to have a special godliness to them. In that sense I guess I can perhaps relate to Ezekiel.

The harder thing to imagine is knowing in the moment that the word of the Lord is before us. How does one know that such things are a word of the Lord and not just the wishful thinking of the speaker?

I have no real answers to that question this morning other than the profound belief that through faith God does use us to convey sacred truth.

Crazy, I know…on what basis can I or anyone else possibly make such a claim?

I don’t know.

But there have been times when people have indicated to me in one way or another that the sacred truth of God has been shared. For some reason I believe them.

Prayer: Dear God, as the opening lines of a hymn put is, “Lord speak to us that we may speak.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(readings today included: Ezekiel 15-16, Psalm 70, and Revelation 6)