Mike Cope's blog

Friday, February 17, 2006

I've always been a runner. I've enjoyed both jogging with friends (thousands of miles with Leon in the Searcy days) and training alone in early morning hours. I've had fun with 5Ks, 10Ks, and marathons. All right, "fun" is a bit too strong a word for the marathons. But the overall experiences were fun. (Who wouldn't like running 26 miles through all five boroughs of NYC?) One year I set these goals: to run under a 19-minute 5K, under a 39-minute 10K, and under a 3:15 marathon to quality for Boston--all goals which I barely met (18:58, 38:18, and 3:14:53). But for now my calves are goofed up a bit. I think that's the official medical designation. So I climb stairs at the health club, play hoops with Chris, hike when I'm around mountains, and ride my bike. In other words, for the time being I'm not a runner. But that's hard to say. Because I've always been a runner. Does that happen a lot as you age? Are there things that get left behind that were part of your self-identity? Maybe that's why our most central identity needs to be connected with being a Christ-follower. Age can't take that away. In fact, in many ways age enhances it. - - - - This Sunday I've come to a text that still shocks me: Matthew 5:43-48. I so want to domesticate this text, to soften its blow, to make it fit our world better. It's too outrageous. (By the way, Chris and I just went to see "End of the Spear," where the text is lived out.) Can't wait to have Zoe join us Sunday morning as I paddle in water over my head with these words of Jesus.


  • For most of my life I have heard sermons that touched upon this text, but emphasized only the last part, "be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." It is only recently that I realize that the last part of these few verses is the result of doing the first parts, and not the other way around.

    Too many times I am still working out my kinks (salvation, attitude, character, fruit of the Spirit, etc.) within the context and environment of the church - rather than what this passage is asking me to do.

    In Dr. Wray's Church Administration class, we are reading "Shaped by God's Heart: the Passion and Practices of Missional Churches." On page 136 is an example of a ministry that spoke volumes to me when I read it. It is called a "Fridge Flyer" in which all the names of the churches in ones community are on it (including other denominations), as well as the preaching minister's name and the list is created in order to pray for every congregation and minister.

    As I read the words, I was humbled by the idea. I thought about myself and the congregations I have attended (not all, but some) who if handed such a paper would say, "but some of these names and churches are the ENEMY," and perhaps it is in these moments that God is wanting to change our ideas about Him, prayer, and the Kingdom we all serve.

    Not to limit what the Matthew passage is saying, I realize that is also talking about issues concerning individuals and groups like those seen in the "Invisible Children" film, and these individuals need volumes of time in our prayer life everyday.

    Thanks Mike for the reminding me of the challenge that has been there for quite some time now.

    By Blogger Donald Philip Simpson, at 2/17/2006 04:36:00 AM  

  • Isn't End of the Spear an incredible movie? My favorite scene in the entire movie was at the very end when Nate's son said "My father's life wasn't taken, it was given" or something like that. I loved the image and message of total and complete forgiveness. It is a must-see!

    By Blogger Lauren, at 2/17/2006 05:17:00 AM  

  • We have to cross train more now. Just can't take the pavement, and we don't like getting out in the cold. I think it is part of getting a bit older, but also more reasonable for taking care of the bod.

    By Blogger Brady, at 2/17/2006 05:18:00 AM  

  • Hey Mike, Clint Logue has talked me into running a 10k in Austin. So, I am training. Oh dear...any suggestions?

    By Blogger Beverly, at 2/17/2006 05:27:00 AM  

  • In times like this I wish I could read and understand the original text. Not that I don't trust you to interpret it, Mike, but it would be very cool and probably even more convicting. On second thought, I'll trust you with it.

    By Blogger Candy, at 2/17/2006 05:38:00 AM  

  • On your text, be sure and check out The Divine Conspiracy, pages 181-184. Willard's explanation of the kingdom heart of love is extremely helpful.

    By Blogger Steve Puckett, at 2/17/2006 05:42:00 AM  

  • Once a runner, always a runner. You may be taking some time off right now, but you will always be a runner.

    BTW: You Da Man on those times. I haven't run a sub-19:00 5K since high school. And I haven't (yet) run a marathon. I've done two half-marathons, but that doesn't count.


    By Blogger Jeff, at 2/17/2006 05:42:00 AM  

  • Speaking of Dallas Willard, he is speaking at the National Pastors Convention next week in San Diego on this topic: Transformed by the Renewing of the Mind: What It Means and How It Works (Romans 12:1-2)

    He's also being interviewed at the Thursday night general session and doing the Friday morning Bible study.

    Rock on it!

    By Blogger Steve Puckett, at 2/17/2006 05:47:00 AM  

  • Mike-

    There's just something about being a runner that I don't think will ever leave you. And I am impressed by those times! I have done five marathons in college but my current PR is 3:49. I hope to qualify for Boston one of these days. And for the record, there is nothing as sweet as running through all the boroughs in NYC as 2 million(!) people cheer you on. A great reminder of how the body of Christ should be in relation to those among us who are struggling.

    By Blogger Chris Field, at 2/17/2006 06:08:00 AM  

  • This is my favorite "old running guy" story. It might be a goal to shoot for.

    (actually, this might be my favorite old running guy story)

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 2/17/2006 06:45:00 AM  

  • I was going to be at Highland Sunday, but after reading what your text is going to be, I may need to find some place where the minister is preaching the latest fad series. Not! See you Sunday!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 2/17/2006 06:50:00 AM  

  • Thinking out loud...

    That word "perfect" sure does a number on all the obsessive compulsives among us...

    The passage is clearly a reflection of Lev 19:2 "Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy."

    I think don phil simpson is onto something though - being "perfect" here has something to do with verses 38 - 47. It has something to do with treating others in the non-prejudicial, impartial way God treats them…

    By Blogger J A Pierpont, at 2/17/2006 06:50:00 AM  

  • Not that I am any great homiletician or anything, and not that you are necessarily asking for advice on this passage, but I find it interesting that I have read so many blog posts recently about "playing it safe."

    I can only pray that this won't be a "safe" sermon, but that it will prick us to the core. I pray that we can be conformed to this text, and not try to domesticate it. Blessings, Mike.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 2/17/2006 07:00:00 AM  

  • Jeff P - Exactly. "Perfect" or mature or complete in our love. A robust love for friend and enemy that reflects God's love.

    Candy - Seldom does reading the original text reveal hidden secrets. I doubt that we often translate a text better than the committees that gave us our English Bibles. But what it often does for me is force me to slow down, to read carefully, and to face head-on what is being said. (That's not to discount my seven years of studying Greek. Just to say that a person shouldn't feel like they're second-class readers of scripture if they can't.)

    Steve - Willard is my weekly companion as I seek to live under these words of Jesus. It's one of the best books I've ever read.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2/17/2006 07:04:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    My husband and I have seen the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor and the movie End of the Spear. In the documentary is footage of the baptism of a slain missionary's daughter. She narrates and tells how she wanted to be baptized in the same river her father gave his life.

    She said, "I was in the same water where Dad's body had been thrown. And on either side of me were the two men who in their youth had killed Dad. All I knew was I really loved those guys."

    The Waodani didn't want to do the movie when first apporached, but then Steve Saint told them about the Columbine massacre. The Waodani were shocked at the killiing of innocents, not even enemies and they agreed to the movie that would tell their story.

    Although Jesus is not mentioned in the End of the Spear, it is evident that his love prompted the forgiveness and love fostered between the families of the slain and the Waodani. Movie viewer Doug Kenny said: "Like grass growing through concrete, there is no stopping what Christ's love can do. The movie is a gift for today."

    By Blogger Cathy Messecar, at 2/17/2006 07:05:00 AM  

  • Mike there was a time I loved to run but my only goals were to finish. I am getting ready for the Capitol 10k (Go Beverly) only this time I will not be running but my goal will be the same. At times my walk with Jesus is the same, some times I cannot walk or run but my Goal is to finish the race. There are some pretty good hills in Austin but none are as difficult as when Jesus washed Judas’s feet. I believe if I can get there every thing else will be down hill.

    By Blogger Clint, at 2/17/2006 07:53:00 AM  

  • Sometimes being known as a runner indicates more than the miles one runs or the times one sets. In our little town my husband is "The Runner." Part of it is because of his five Bostons (best time: 3:02) and part because that's how I always referred to him in my weekly newspaper column.

    Today, ten years after I have written a column and some time since he has run, we still hear - often - "How's The Runner doing?" and "How is The Runner's knee?"

    After a knee replacement last fall, he will not run again - doctor's orders - but the determination and fortitude that took him through thousands of miles of running though the Ozarks and in distant spots are still with him. Not running? No - but he walked two miles on the Mort Walker trail last week.

    Ane that's good.

    By Blogger Coping, at 2/17/2006 07:54:00 AM  

  • Oh by the way not to brag but last year I was the first to cross the finish line yet still came in last place.

    By Blogger Clint, at 2/17/2006 07:58:00 AM  

  • I thought I was a runner till I read this! I'm a 5-K gal myself, just barely a hobbyist. :-)

    Enjoy Sunday and the Lectureship - wish I could be with you all.

    By Blogger Amy, at 2/17/2006 08:02:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Once a runner, always a wannabe runner at the least. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in '97. Separated from my teammates, I asked two runners who like me were wearing Leukemia Society shirts if I could run with them. Somewhere between miles 3 and 5 we discovered that we were both preachers for churches of Christ in Tennessee. Who would have thought it on a Sunday in Washington, D.C. We ran together for 17 miles and both finished. An Army division chaplain once told me as we compared marathon notes, "Once you've run a marathon, no one can tell you can or cannot do. You know."

    By Blogger Michael Summers, at 2/17/2006 08:17:00 AM  

  • I used to run (nothing like marathon distances), but somewhere in my mid-30's I stopped enjoying it.

    Now cycling, that's where it's at. I figure I can take that into my 60's (if I last that long). I find I enjoy the faster speeds of a bike more than running.

    Now on the more important part of the post, it seems to me that loving our enemies is a big part of what separates us from the Rotary Club or Kiwanis. Because really, what's the difference between us and them if our only aim is to love and serve those in the church? Now the Rotary and Kiwanis are good organizations, but there should be a difference between us because of Jesus.


    By Blogger jds, at 2/17/2006 08:56:00 AM  

  • As a "formerly fast" runner ("Back in '82"), I took up the slogan "to finish is to win" when I trained for and completed a marathon a few years back. Since my back surgery two years ago, my motto has been "to move is to win."

    A favorite passage of mine these days is 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."

    By Blogger mike the eyeguy, at 2/17/2006 09:40:00 AM  

  • mike the eyeguy I can relate, my new passage is James 4:14 Life is but a vapor.

    By Blogger Clint, at 2/17/2006 10:17:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Have you read Matt. 5:43-48 in the message translation? It reads really well...I think.

    Blessings on you brother for Sunday!

    I'm a runner too...yeah I run to bathroom, the fidge, from angry people and dogs, to the store, to my wife, away from the dentist.

    Have a great weekend.

    By Blogger Josh, at 2/17/2006 10:27:00 AM  

  • A couple of others have mentioned it as well, but I'd like to emphasize you may be at that stage of life where cycling needs to replace running -- and most all the "age-related converts" I know now wish they'd "switched" before they incurred the damage that required the switch. It is just a better activity in almost every way, except that it requires gear that is not required for running. Otherwise, you don't incur "impact" damage; you travel farther, and more comfortably (after you and your seat make friends, at least); see more; create your own breeze/cooling; as well as other aesthetic and practical benefits.

    Sure wish I could hear you Sunday. Will have to get the recording. Thanks, Mike, for all you do for all of us out here in the wilderness.

    By Blogger Gary, at 2/17/2006 10:27:00 AM  

  • A couple of others have mentioned it as well, but I'd like to emphasize you may be at that stage of life where cycling needs to replace running -- and most all the "age-related converts" I know now wish they'd "switched" before they incurred the damage that required the switch. It is just a better activity in almost every way, except that it requires gear that is not required for running. Otherwise, you don't incur "impact" damage; you travel farther; see more; create your own breeze/cooling; as well as other aesthetic and practical benefits.

    Sure wish I could hear you Sunday. Will have to get the recording. Thanks, Mike, for all you do for all of us out here in the wilderness.

    By Blogger Gary, at 2/17/2006 10:28:00 AM  

  • Thank you Mike for that gift and the admonishment/encouragement to "slow down, to read carefully, and to face head-on what is being said." I look forward to Sunday but I will not be running anytime soon.

    By Blogger Candy, at 2/17/2006 10:46:00 AM  

  • Will your Sunday lesson of 2/19 be available to buy? Will the Zoe Singers be on the CD also? I'm so envious that I can't be there in person to hear you & them.

    By Blogger annie, at 2/17/2006 11:21:00 AM  

  • I have trouble with many of the concepts in the sermon on the mount. They truly challenge the way our society lives and believes.

    Your times are phenominal! I'm still working to get to an 18 minute 2 mile and you were doing over 3 in 19! Man, you rock!

    Are you getting excited about the upcoming world baseball chalenge? I know I am!



    By Blogger Ed Harrell, at 2/17/2006 11:27:00 AM  

  • I am a dedicated sitter. I have been sitting for longer than I can remember, and I rarely have shin splints as a result.

    I believe that God invented running as a means from getting away from predators - which He also created - or for catching small fast things in order to eat them - for which He created them.

    Running is so modern. In this post-modern age, God has created McDonald's to serve slow-moving food to fast-moving people who are sitting down while driving their cars past.

    But, Eric Liddell notwithstanding, there is no evidence that when you run you must feel His pleasure.

    It is optional, and only happens when the endorphins kick in to kill the pain from the punishment you are giving your legs, contrary to God's will.

    I would pontificate more, but I have to very slowly and carefully get up now and shuffle to the bathroom to try and find my Preparation H.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 2/17/2006 12:41:00 PM  

  • Run, Forrest, Run!!!!!

    By Blogger Beaner, at 2/17/2006 01:19:00 PM  

  • I am completely cracking up! This past weekend I completed (read: walked) my first (and probably only!) half marathon. I've been feeling so proud of myself until I just read about Mr. Speedy Gonzalez Cope running a FULL marathon in the time I finished the half this weekend! Hilarious! So, if you'll now excuse me, I need to tend to my black and blue toenail and opposing blister!

    By Blogger Amy Boone, at 2/17/2006 01:29:00 PM  

  • Mike, I have left you a comment on your January 14 blog. Hope you will read it and we can talk. I plan to be in Abilene from about 11:30 until 3:30 next Tuesday, the 21st of February. If you happen to be near the ACU campus during the right time, it would be great to see you. I don't have your email, so hopefully this blog comment will get to you. Thanks. Mike E. O'Neal, mike.oneal@oc.edu

    By Blogger Mike E. O'Neal, at 2/17/2006 02:50:00 PM  

  • Mike - I'll be glad to visit with you. I'm doing the keynote Tuesday evening and am trying to keep that day open, but I'll be happy to fly up to OC to visit later. Of course, there's not much on my January 14 blog except a bare-bones mentioning of what happened. There's much more in the Christian Chronicle. Thanks.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2/17/2006 03:59:00 PM  

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