Monday, June 24, 2013

From Type 1 Diabetes to Ironman

Jeff Akin found out he had Type 1 diabetes on a Thursday afternoon in the spring of 2002. Four days later the Ironman World Championship committee notified him he had been selected in the lottery to compete in Hawaii.

“I couldn’t swim, and I didn’t own a bike,” Jeff said. The Ironman competition in Hawaii consists of a 2.4-mile swim in open water, followed by a 112-mile bike ride across the lava desert and a 26.2-mile run.

I interviewed Jeff and Amy Jo Akin in Black Mountain last week, wanting to find out how this man had overcome diabetes to compete in dozens of triathlons, marathons and shorter races in the past 11 years.

“The doctor told me that day, ‘If you don’t fi nd a way to take care of yourself, you’ll be gone before long,’” Jeff said. “So when I got the news on Monday that I had been selected for Hawaii, I was shocked. I remember coming home and telling Amy Jo.”

“We had spent the whole weekend researching diabetes,” Amy Jo said. “So, when Jeff told me he had won the lottery, I thought there was money involved.” She laughed and said, “But we don’t even play the lottery.”

Jeff had not told Amy Jo about entering the lottery for the race. “There were only 50 selected out of more than 2,000 applicants,” Jeff said. “Everybody else competing that day would have qualified in other races. But the Ironman founders wanted it to have a ‘common man’ element. I didn’t tell my wife because I didn’t think I had a chance!”

Thus began a six-month journey to prepare for the big race. Jeff swam hours of laps in a pool, bought a road bike and started logging miles, and pounded the pavement day and night. Amy Jo, though concerned about her husband’s health concerns and knowing the toll this competition would take on his body, saw a bigger picture.

“When I saw how much this meant to Jeff, how much he wanted to do this, I pulled myself together and became his biggest fan,” she said.

Jeff’s day in Hawaii began at 7 a.m. and did not end until more than 15 hours later.

“When I stood on the starting line that morning,” Jeff said, “I had no idea what would be required that day or what I could do.”

What Jeff learned has become a valuable truth for him to live by. “Aside from the training and all we gained from that, I learned that most of us can do more than we think.”

Jeff likes to encourage men to get in shape by just starting with small things. “Park far out,” Jeff says. “The irony is the same man who says he just got a membership at the Y and wants to get in shape will circle the parking lot at Wal-Mart four times looking for an easy space. Park far out! Not only will that give you some exercise, it may even give you an opportunity for witness.” The Bible says we should live in that place of “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Jeff and Amy Jo know about hope. The Lord taught him how to control diabetes and so much more.

“Start small,” he says to men when he speaks on the subject. “Do what you can today. Go for a walk with your wife tonight. A walk and a talk. Start there.”

You can hear the interview in its entirety at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two ways to Live (Part 2)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
As I said in the previous post, these verses outline what it means to live for God and what it means to live for yourself. In this post we will be looking at what it means to live for God.

Living according to the Spirit

He has dealt with our spiritual death and as a result we have eternal life and hope, and our whole attitudes have changed: We were slaves of sin, now we are willing slaves to God, who’s burden is easy and light (Matthew 11:30).

We have the Holy Spirit in us (if we are Christians) - God living in us to help, encourage, grow, challenge, rebuke and strengthen us.

As I said before, "the mind" refers to what we are focused on. As Christians we need to be focused solely on God: we need to give up sin and obey him. We were created to glorify God and through Jesus we can do that. If we have the Holy Spirit in us, then we need to desire what he desires. How do we know what he desires? We need to read his word. God wants us to obey him. He wants us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. (Gal 5:22-23). If you were a professional basketball player you would play basketball fairly often right? If you’re a Christian, are you living like it? We all stuff up, but in Jesus there is forgiveness. But what is your life characterized by?

Micah 6:8
"what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." 
The Result:

What is the result of our salvation? Life and peace. Instead of being dead in sin we are made alive in Christ. We have the promise of eternal life in heaven! We have peace for a number of reasons: 
  • There is complete forgiveness in Jesus so we do not need to feel guilty if we have repented of our sin.
  • We have the sovereign, all-powerful, creator God protecting us and therefore we don’t have to fear anything. 
  • We also know we will have eternal life with him at the end no matter how much we stuff up if we are genuinely his people.
But most of all we have peace with God. We were his enemies, directly attacking him with our sins, yet in Jesus we are adopted as Children, moved from death to life, from condemnation to grace. We can now glorify God like he created us to do. What a glorious Savior! What a marvelous creator!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Nathanael Muscat is in his last year of high school. He was brought up in a Christian home and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior as he was growing up. He started his blog, Only In Christ, about a year ago.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Manhood Restored by Eric Mason (and a huge Kindle deal!)

If I may be transparent for a moment, I recently started a board on my Pinterest account that I titled "A Manly Board". It mainly consists of photos of awesome facial hair, tobacco pipes, and Christopher Walken. While the board is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek, even the serious portrayals of masculinity are almost always similarly one-dimensional. Manhood is all too often measured in terms of testosterone and Testarossas, MMA and MGD, chest bumps and chest hair.

Sometimes, even well-meaning Christians try to shoe-horn Jesus into the popular definitions of masculinity, painting him as muscle-bound carpenter whose blue collar work gave him a physique just shy of a body builder. While I am not saying this is impossible, I am saying we're better off letting what we know of Jesus form our ideas of masculinity rather than vice versa.

And that is exactly what Eric Mason does in his book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. Mason holds up Jesus as the ultimate example of what masculinity should look like and then shows how this restored vision has a dramatic impact on our worldview, sexuality, vision, family, and church.

Mason, with compelling examples from his setting in urban Philadelphia, vividly portrays what has gone wrong, and what God has done to begin setting things right again. And at the center of God's reclamation project, the gospel shines as the one true solution to "daddy deprivation" and all the other problems the modern man makes war against. As Eric writes:
"We need fathers, and we’re only going to be fathers to our children when we see that true fatherhood is rooted and defined in God the Father. "
To be completely honest, I had intended to have this review done and ready in time for Father's Day yesterday, but it actually worked out for the best that I am late because today (and I'm not sure how long, so hurry) you can buy the Kindle version of the book for only 0.99!!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Every Christian guy, but especially dads

Dads are Plan A with a powerful backup

“It’s a good thing for kids to have daddies. They protect them.” Those words were spoken by my 3-year-old grandson, Blake, to his father. In a world increasingly losing its mind about the importance of fathers, leave it to a toddler to cut to the chase.

Ken Canfield writes, “The current and conservative cost of fatherlessness is estimated at $100 billion dollars annually. Though a signifi - cant sum, money cannot account for the staggering emotional and moral costs, as well as ‘loss of potential,’ that plague a child disconnected from his or her dad. Currently in America, at least 25 million children under the age of 18 don’t live with their natural father. Add the number of children who live with their fathers, but aren’t connected emotionally, psychologically or spiritually, and you have the dramatic majority of all children.” — The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry

Bill Glass spoke many years ago at a businessmen’s luncheon in Burlington. A consensus All-American football player at Baylor University, Glass was a member of the 1964 Cleveland Browns who won the NFL World Championship two years before the fi rst Super Bowl. After retiring from football, Glass traveled the world to preach the gospel and is perhaps best known for his prison ministry. He has met inmates in prisons all over the country and around the world, and the day I heard him at a luncheon, he said, “There may be a man in prison somewhere who doesn’t hate his father — I just have not met him yet.”

He told a story of a greeting card company that offered free Mother’s Day cards to violent criminals incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in Florida. Thousands of the men accepted the offer and sent cards to their mothers. The greeting card company, buoyed by their success, made the same offer for Father’s Day. Glass said, “Not one inmate accepted the offer. Not one man sent his father a card for Father’s Day.” Are there negative consequences in a home where dad is not involved and engaged emotionally with his children? Oh, yes.

What about the positive effects of a father in the home who is loving his children? Ken Canfi eld writes, “Infants who have time alone with their dad show richer social and exploratory behavior than do children not exposed to such experiences. They smile more frequently, in general, and they more frequently engage in playful behaviors with their dad. Children who sense closeness to their fathers are twice as likely to enter college or fi nd stable employment after high school; they are 75 percent less likely to have a child in their teenage years, 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience depression.”

How important are dads? Let me ask you men something that I heard Todd Wilson say several years ago. “If you dropped dead this afternoon, God forbid, how long would it take for the place where you work to replace you? A day? A week? Maybe even up to a month if you have a really specialized job? But how long would it take to replace you in the home as a dad? Forever. You are irreplaceable!” Wilson went on to say, “Actually, someone would step in and take your place as a dad to your children: God. Have you ever thought about that, dad? You are Plan A in your house. God is your backup. That’s how important your job is.” Happy Father’s Day, and thank you to all you daddies who are protecting your children.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

God exists. What next?

OK, so you believe in God or some sort of higher power, what next? There are lots of different options and opinions out there, lots of different views about God. Where should you start?

 In this video, we offer 6 reasons why a spiritual seeker, someone who's open to the existence of God but still checking out the different religions, should start their spiritual quest with Christianity.

This material is loosely based on the intellectual and apologetic work of Craig Hazen in his book, Five Sacred Crossings: A Novel. These videos are a ministry of Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE. If you're ready to check out Christianity, why not join us this Sunday morning! 

6 Reasons a Spiritual Seeker Should Start With Christianity

For further reading:
Five Reasons Why A Thoughtful Person Would Start Their Religious Quest With Christianity
This is based on the same material, but aren't you glad we shortened the title?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two ways to Live (Part 1)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
In these verses we have a clear comparison of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be living in sin with the results of both. We'll look mainly at sin and it's results in this post, and I'll be posting on what it means to "live in accordance with the Spirit" in the near future (God willing).

Living according to the Flesh

"The mind" means what we are focused on: our goals, passions and aims. For the non-christian, their minds are fixed on “what the flesh desires”. Sin. Let me explain that: It doesn't mean that non-christians are always thinking about and planning to do specific sinful things. But they also aren't thinking about God. They aren't thinking about how to glorify God with all they do. Instead of thinking about what God wants, we all naturally think about "what I want". Without salvation in Jesus we won't be thinking about what we want to do, not about him.

What's the problem with that? What is the result of being focussed on what the flesh desires? The result of sin is “Death”. That is the just and right punishment for disobedience to God. In fact, Paul says that the mind governed by the flesh is dead. One commentator said the following:
"[sin] not only leads to death, or leads to misery, but it is death itself; there is woe and condemnation in the very act and purpose of being supremely devoted to the corrupt passions, Its only tendency is condemnation and despair." (Albert Barnes)
The Goal of Sin

Sin has the very goal of condemning us to death before God. Paul doesn’t just mean physical death but spiritual death. Sin is a direct attack on God’s character:

  • He is good, sin is evil; 
  • He is perfect and just, sin is wicked and corrupt. 
  • He is all-wise, sin is rebellion against God and trying to live by our own wisdom. 
  • He is all-powerful, the creator of all things, sin is a denial of his right to rule over our lives. 
Sin can never please God because it is the opposite of his character and he will punish us for it. Even one ‘little’ lie is enough for him to justly condemn us to hell for eternity. In the words of David:
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. (Psalm 34:21)
Thankfully that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s the beginning of the gospel. Jesus, who is God, came to earth as a man and died in our place. He took our sin and he took God’s wrath that we deserved for it. That should fill us with joy if we are Christians! So the question remains: Are you a Christian? How will you live your life?

Nathanael Muscat is in his last year of high school. He was brought up in a Christian home and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior as he was growing up. He started his blog, Only In Christ, about a year ago.

Monday, June 10, 2013

There’s nothing like a godly grandmother

While speaking at a conference recently, I talked about preparing our children to leave home. I shared about Hannah, our oldest daughter, who spent this past year away at Regent University, and is home for the summer. Then I said, “She’s still my baby girl.” After the workshop, one woman lingered at the book table while people were talking to me or looking at the materials. Finally, she was the only one in the room with Hannah and me. She said with tears in her eyes, “You will never know how much that meant to me when you said your daughter is still your baby girl.” Then she turned to Hannah and said, “I’m envious.” Here was a grown woman who is still hurting over a father who was indifferent to her. Or worse.

We can learn a lot from the Scriptures. Like, how should we respond when a baby is born? When Ruth had her baby, a group called “the women” brought the child to his grandmother, Naomi, so they could do three things. First, they praised God for the baby. They did that because every baby is a gift from God, not a “punishment” to the mother, or a “burden to the environment.”

Second, they spoke a blessing over the baby, even asking that God would make his name renowned in Israel. Can we ask that God make our children’s names great? Oh, yes. Not in the sense of what the world thinks of as a “great name,” which comes attached to money and fame. But asking instead that their reputation, their godly character, would be great. Here’s what God thinks about that: “A good (or great) name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

Third, the women praised the mother, telling Naomi that her daughter-in-law Ruth was better to her than seven sons. This was the ultimate compliment in ancient days. It was a son who carried on the family name. It was a son who could work and provide for his mother. And to have seven sons? You were a very rich person indeed. Read chapter one of Ruth and see Naomi’s lament when she returned to her homeland a widow and childless. “I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.” Now the women brought Naomi’s grandson to her to say, “No, Naomi, you came back full. You just didn’t know it. God is good and He has provided for you in your old age.”

The women placed Obed in her arms, and after more than 30 years, Naomi was holding a baby again. And the relationship between grandma and grandson began, which clearly was going to be much more daily than a grandmother who lives 100 miles or 1,000 miles away from her grandchildren. What a blessing. Some of you remember with great fondness the relationship you had, or have, with your grandparents. They were the oldfashioned grandparents, the kind who wanted to develop a relationship with their grandkids, not the modern kind that don’t have time for that because they’re too busy playing. Sadly, sometimes it is the parents who deny the grandparents the privilege of spending time with the grandchildren. But neither happens here. Naomi is not too busy for Obed. Ruth does not deny Naomi the privilege of caring for her grandson. Obed grew up loved deeply by a mother, a father and a grandmother.

He would always be Ruth’s “baby boy.” But oh how blessed he was to have a godly grandmother.

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

20 Tweetable C.S. Lewis Quotes

After trying to find a few tweetable words of wisdom recently (yes, "tweetable" is officially a word now despite what my spell checker says) and failing to find much of anything that wasn't already on Twitter, I felt that was an injustice that simply couldn't stand. Thus began a new series we're calling 20 Tweetable. Feel free to make a few suggestions on who we should feature in future posts!

20 Tweetable C.S. Lewis Quotes
  1. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. 
  2. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
  3. If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
  4. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
  5. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
  6. The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.
  7. We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
  8. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
  9. God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.
  10. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
  11. There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.
  12. True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
  13. Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth 'thrown in': aim at Earth and you will get neither.
  14. Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.
  15. Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under the cover of fiction without their knowing it.
  16. He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.
  17. The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
  18. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.
  19. God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.
  20. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.
Other posts in the series: 
20 Tweetable John Piper Quotes
20 Tweetable Tim Keller Quotes 

Monday, June 3, 2013

God has one design for marriage

“So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.”

That statement of Scripture comes near the end of the wonderful book of Ruth. May I suggest three principles of God’s design for marriage that this story illustrates? First, we see that marriage by God’s design is between one man and one woman. “Male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply …’” God put Adam to sleep, took a rib and created a woman to be his wife. Some readers might scoff at this and say, “Adam and Eve are metaphorical people; they did not exist. They are simply constructs of the human imagination.” Let me ask you this, then, if you honestly believe that. When Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve, and Jonah, and many other Old Testament characters as though they were real people, was Jesus lying? Was he deluded? If you believe that, then there are much deeper issues at stake than whether you believe God has one design for marriage.

Second, we see that God’s design for marriage is that it is a covenant made before witnesses. The most important witness is God. That’s why we say in a wedding ceremony, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” So, whether the wedding is held in a church building, like mine and Cindy’s, or in a garden, like Adam and Eve’s, or at a city gate, there should be a public declaration of vows. That’s why a man and woman promise to each other, out loud, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death parts us.” They make those promises before God.

Third, we see that God’s design for marriage includes consummation after the wedding and as an essential part of the covenant relationship. Boaz and Ruth had sex after marriage, but not before. That’s God design. First the courtship. Then the covenant. Then the consummation. Sex was God’s idea, and it is a great one, but only within the confines of marriage.

The old analogy is still a good analogy. Imagine a cold winter evening, and you are sitting in the living room with your family gathered around, sipping hot chocolate while a fire roars in the fireplace. The fire is a wonderful blessing, warming the home on a bitter night. Now imagine the same scenario, but the fire is not in the fireplace. It’s in the living room.

The sofa and the rug and the walls are engulfed in flames. Same fire, wrong place. Now the fire is a tragedy that destroys the home.

When we remove the physical act of love from the spiritual covenant of marriage, it will destroy. Think of David, the man after God’s own heart. He did not court Bathsheba. He lusted after her. She was a pornographic image, if you will, whom David saw from his rooftop. He did not make a covenant with Bathsheba.

There were no wedding vows before witnesses. She was another man’s wife. There was only consummation, out of place. David took the physical and divorced it from the spiritual, from God’s design for marriage, and the fire nearly destroyed the house.

Want a good love story? Read the book of Ruth.

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at