Godly Training (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. [1 Timothy 4:7-8]

I think a lot of Christians waste a lot of time engaging in silly arguments, debates and controversies at the expense of godly training time. Christians also engage in everyday life without proper godly training. Christians deal with stress and temptation without proper godly training. This is basically what the apostle Paul was warning his young friend, Timothy, about. And this is something that all Christians need to take to heart.

Train so you can be ready.

I am currently registered for a half marathon in June. This will be number three for me to add to the three marathons I have already done, so I know the value of proper physical training. The problem is that I haven’t taken my own advice yet and really gotten into my physical training. I need to get moving because I can not expect to do well in June if I don’t prepare my body now. Without proper training my body will take beating and I high doubt I will be able to finish.

The same goes with godly training but godly training has many more benefits than anything we can do to prepare our bodies in this life. Recently I was reporting to my church council that Lent this year was going very well; that my stress level was down considerably from past years. I then went on to say that I have been continuing to exercise my faith through daily Bible reading, devotions and writing on my blog everyday (sometimes more than once). Following the meeting, a council member/friend approached me and said, “Do you think that your reduced stress this year has anything to do with your prayer/devotional life?”

Silly me, I never considered that, but absolutely!

Nurturing your relationship with God through Jesus Christ through worship, praying, reading God’s word, not only strengthens your faith as the Gospel is read and proclaimed to you but it also helps you deal with life now. Don’t get me wrong through, I am not slipping into a prosperity Gospel preaching mode; trying to give you some easy steps to a happy and stress free life (if I ever do that would someone please slap me up across the head). Anyway…what I am saying is that godly training is important in this life to bring glory to God. Because believe me, there are irreverent and silly myths and controversies all over the place and the Christian needs to be ready. So this godly training is not about a happy and stress free life (that is just a pleasant “side effect”). Godly training is about glorifying God today and preparing our souls for eternity.

And so if you don’t engage in godly training now; when life happens and the world challenges your faith, you will stumble and fall. But also, if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, why wouldn’t you want to train and grow closer to him?


Exercise your faith.
Train your soul.
Prepare your defense.
Be ready.

And when life happens, you can bring glory to God (and not yourself).

What a joy it is to spend time with You, oh God. What a joy to grow closer and closer to You. What a joy to soak in Your holy law. What a joy to give You glory in this life. May You bless our “training” not for us but for You, oh God. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Finish strong

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I love these texts that mention running since I am a runner myself.  I have run many races: A number of 5K and 10K races; 3 marathons; and a bunch of other races of varying distances.  Currently I am training for a 1/2 marathon which will take place in a couple weeks.

Running a race can be grueling; your muscles get tired, you develop cramps or some kind of pain or doubts enter your brain about your ability to finish.  When these things happen the temptation is to immediately find relief and stop and quit the race.  Those thoughts have entered my mind many times.

But I have kept running.

What helps me when the going gets tough is thinking about the finish line; picturing my wife standing there cheering me on and longing to receive that finishers t-shirt and/or medal.  I focus on what lies ahead and not on my current circumstances.  Sounds contrived considering the Hebrews text but its true.

No doubt you are going to run into tough times in this life.
No doubt you are going to feel like giving up.
No doubt Satan is going to speak his lies to you that it is not worth it.

But Jesus has already finished the race for you.  Jesus endured the cross and won the prize FOR YOU.  Place your faith in him and keep your eyes fixed on the finish line…where Jesus is waiting to give you your finishers medal; your crown of glory.

Keep running and I’ll see you at the finish line.

edh -|—

Get out there

I am a runner…

…and a different person than I was 9 years ago so when I overheard a conversation today I got a little worked up ~ hence this blog post.

I am currently at my synod’s Fall Theological Conference.  This is an event that is held every year where the pastors of the SW MN Synod get together for some learning and fellowship.  This year we are in Watertown, SD.  We start on Sunday evening and wrap up at noon on Wednesday.  On Monday afternoon they let us go for a few hours.  Some take naps, some get some work done, some (like me) go running (or do some form of exercise).

As we were leaving our afternoon session I overheard a conversation ahead of me that went something like this:
Person A to person B: So…are you going for a walk this afternoon?
Person B (with a little laugh):  Does it look like I exercise?
Person A & B: (laugh)
(It didn’t look like person A exercised either)

This was the point when I wanted to say,”Well, maybe you should“…but I bit my tongue.  Now I am not trying to be mean or pass judgement or anything, but I worry about people like person B, because I used to be like that.

Nine years ago (while on internship) I was seventy pounds heavier.  I didn’t exercise, I ate lots of greasy fast food, could easily finish off a large pizza without any guilt and considered salads disgusting.  I was grossly out of shape and probably a ticking time bomb; a heart attach waiting to happen.  Never mind the fact that my dad is diabetic (adult onset).  I had all the risk factors of major health problems.  While on internship I had a little scare as I started experiencing some chest pains that lead me to ER and an overnight hospital stay. Luckily it turned out to be nothing, but it got me thinking.

When I returned from internship for my senior year in seminary in 2003 I finally got my act together.  I started exercising (mostly treadmill running) and eating healthy.  I limited my fast food and practiced portion control.  And…as I was losing weight…I developed a taste for salads and other healthy foods (weird, I know).  I lost 70 pounds from August 2003 to July 2004.  I went from a 42 inch waist and XL clothing to a 33 inch waist and M to L clothing.  I looked better and I felt better.  And I never want to go back to where I was 9 years ago.

I guess the reason why I am writing this is because I want to urge all people to get out there and get some exercise.   I am not saying you have to sign up for a marathon but at least go for a walk.  I am not saying you need to go out and buy expensive running shoes but at least get moving.  Start somewhere. If you are a “person B” get out and do something.

God gave us these bodies to care for.  We are a temple.  God’s precious creation. But if that is not enough for you then consider this:  There is someone in your life who loves you and would rather you stay around for a while.  Please don’t take your health for granted.  Don’t wait for a health scare to kick you into gear.

So as I sit here ranting I am wishing I had said something to person B.  And since I did not see their face I will never get a chance.  My only hope is that someone in his life will prompt him to get out there and do something.  A 5 to 10 minute walk is better than nothing.

So since I can’t say anything to person B, I guess I have you.  Please get out there and do something.  Take care of yourself for the praise and glory of God and for those loved ones in your life.  And if you want, give me a call.  I’ll run (or walk) with you.

edh -|—

Life is good…PRAISE BE TO GOD

Wow…life has been good.

We have had a great start to our youth education year (release time, confirmation and Wednesday Night Live).  All these programs have seen increased numbers along with a group of caring and committed teachers. I have seen intellectual and spiritual growth in some kids.  Always a fun thing to see.

I have been amazed at how God has been working through me these past few weeks in preaching.  On Sept. 4 I preached a sermon about God’s plan for us (which I said is community).  This was supposed to be a stand alone sermon but the next three weeks God has provided messages to build on that theme.  And what a ride it has been.

Personally…I had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept me from running for 3 weeks.  It drove me crazy to see friends running knowing that I could not.  I had to pull out of a 1oK I have enjoyed running the past 2 years.  But now my ankle is healed and I am back to running.

I started a weight loss program through Weight Watchers (something I did a few years back).  I want to drop about 20 pounds to get back to my ideal running weight.  Well…in just over 2 weeks I have lost 7.2 pounds.

It is easy to complain to God when things are not going well and easy to draw away from God when things ARE going well.  But we need to remember to praise God when thing do go well (and also praise God when things do not go well).   Whatever the case, God is good ~ for he sent Jesus to die for you and for me.

edh -|—

godly training

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

I am a runner and an emerging triathlete so I understand the value of physical training.  If I don’t do the proper training then I am not going to be ready for the event I am participating in.  If I am training for a marathon then I need to make sure I get some long runs in otherwise I am going to struggle during the actual race.  When I am training for a triathlon, I need to get bike and pool workouts in as well as my running.  I also need to do back-to-back bike and run workouts to get my legs used to doing those events.  Training is vitally important.

Paul goes on to tell young Timothy that physical training is fine but remember your godly training.  That training will benefit you in this life and the next life.  But what does godly training look like?
–Scripture reading
–Bible study
–Patience (and practicing the other Fruits of the Spirit)
Just to name a few.  All of these are great ways to train for godliness.

They will bring you closer to God and to others.  They will strengthen your faith so others may see your good works and give glory to God.  This training will strengthen you resistance to Satan’s flaming arrows.  This training will feed your soul with God’s grace and forgiveness.  This training will keep us on the right track as we serve as Jesus’ disciples for the sake of the world.

Training is never easy but the more you do it the easier it becomes.  Also…the more you do it the easier it is to face the real thing.  So don’t forget your godly training.  Keep that as part of your daily routine but not so much a “routine” that your training becomes rote.  Train your soul to learn more about this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so others may experience this awesome God of ours.  Train your soul so the burdens of this world do not become overwhelming.

Happy training all; praising God always and forever!  Amen!


My big run

Well…I am doing it again…

…Grandma’s Marathon is coming up this Saturday (June 18) and I will be in the field of nearly 10,000 runners who will be vying to complete a 26.2 mile run from Two Harbors to Duluth, MN.  This will be marathon #3 for me.  After marathon #1 (Twin Cities 08) I thought I was done but I was beat by a 85 year old man so I had to try again.  After marathon #2 (Grandma’s ’10) I thought I was done but my brother-in-law wanted to run his first marathon so I said I would run with him.  Now I am saying that marathon #3 will be my last ~ well…we’ll see I guess 🙂

I’ve been asked why do I put myself through this; why do I subject my body to running a grueling race such as a marathon.  The only and best answer that I can give is: “Because I can“.  After giving that answer to someone one time they responded by saying, “Well…I can jump off a skyscraper but it doesn’t mean I will“.  To which I responded, “It doesn’t take determination, dedication, training and hard work to jump off a skyscraper.

I also think about the greatest running movie of all time; Chariots of Fire; a movie about Eric Liddell, a devote Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God and won the gold medal in the 400 meter run in the 1924 Olympics.  Eric Liddell’s answer to why he runs was “I believe that God made me for a purpose.  But he also made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.”  That is a great quote and it gave me goose bumps when I heard it.

Now…I am not saying that I am fast.  I am not saying that I am anything special when it comes to running.  I am definitely no Eric Liddell.  But I believe I run because God made me in such a way that I can…flat feet and all.  I am simply using the ability that God gave me.  Granted…I am not going to change the world through running another marathon but since I am doing something I enjoy; something God gifted me with, I feel a connection to God.  Because it is only through the grace of God that I finish a marathon.

So if you are at all interested in following my progress you can sign up to receive email or text messages updating you on my progress by going to:

Once at the site you simply enter my name: Eric Hullstrom

All runners wear a timing chip on their shoe to keep track of them on the course and to record times at various locations along the way.  My goal is to run Grandma’s in under 4 hours (I ran it last year in 4:02:39).  The race starts at 7:30am on Saturday, June 18.

If nothing else please pray for me…I can use all the prayers I can get.

And in the end all praise and glory goes to God our Father through Jesus Christ.  Amen!


New Year’s Eve 2009

Well…2009 is coming to a close and part of me feels this slight, little tug to write something profound to wrap up 2009; a kind of year-in-review with some final words of wisdom before the onslaught on 2010…

[“Profound”…what in the world is this part of me thinking…”profound”?]

In any case…here is my last post of 2009 (profound or not):

As I write this I am sitting in my most favorite chair in the world (a chair my wife despises…but that story is for another time).  During this time of the year I am on vacation…recovering from a busy Christmas season.  My wife is still working so we generally do not go anywhere, but that is fine…sleeping in and doing absolutely nothing is still good for my soul as I refuel for the drive towards Lent and Easter…after which I will take another vacation (this time getting out of town with my wife).

So as I sit here (refueling in my favorite chair drinking coffee) I find myself reflecting on the past year (funny how that happens when a year or anything comes to an end).  So listed below are my top ten highlights from the past year (in no particular order):

(10)Washington vacation – After Easter my wife and I enjoy heading out to the state of Washington (where I did my internship) and hanging out with friends and seeing the sights.  This year we did a lot of hiking and exploring new things.

(9) Losing 65 pounds – This took place from March through October in an effort to get into better running shape for 2010.  I have maintained my weight since then and am enjoying my new, healthier lifestyle.

(8) “The vote” – This is of course referring to the ELCA Churchwide assembly vote about homosexuality in August.  This is not a “highlight” but it sure is memorable.  It created a lot of discussion and soul-searching to say the least.

(7) Three weddings – Two of these were people from Salem and one couple is a friend of mine and Connie’s.  They were a lot of fun to do and be a part of.

(6) Release Time and confirmation classes – I have some really fun students this year.  They are active and willing to learn.  A highlight within this one is one of my Release Time students reading scripture at the Christmas Eve worship service.  It has been fun watching her grow up over the last few years.

(5) Christmas snow storm (“Winter Storm Eric”) – This was a little annoying but once again memorable.  I think this snow storm will be talked about for a long time.  The highlight here is that this snow storm caused us to slow down and therefore we got a chance to spend more quality time with family; celebrating.

(4) New patio and new bathroom – This was a long time in coming but we barely got these done before the church’s big 125th anniversary celebration (more on that coming later).

(3) Running – This is directly related to my weight lose.  I am training for 2 marathons in 2010, but the highlight here is breaking a 20 minute 5K and breaking 42 minutes for 6 miles…both very exciting for me.

(2) Salem’s 125th anniversary celebration – This was a fun weekend.  A lot of planning went into this and lots of people came out.  Many memories were shared.

(1) Five year anniversary – 2009 was the 5 year anniversary of my ordination and wedding.  The congregation planned a special recognition for me during worship (which I knew was happening but did not know details).  It was a very special time of affirmation for Connie and me.  After worship there was a reception and then after that Connie and I hosted a party for our wedding anniversary with our family; having a renewal of vows for all the couples.  A very fun and memorable day.

2009 was indeed an eventful year.  I made healthy changes in my life; had my call here affirmed; celebrated ministry milestones; and continued to enjoy people growing in their faith.  Many other items could have been added to this list…Praise be to God!

So as we close out 2009…blessings to you as you finish off the year and dive into a brand new year.  God has been and always will be faithful.  Hold on to that and enjoy the promises we have from God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let’s see what God will do in 2010…

Happy New Year!


An icy Monday

I live in Minnesota…and I love it.  I love (almost) everything about living here.  I love the changes in seasons; the variety of weather; the many lakes to enjoy; the people; and the list could go on.  But one the of the few things I do not like about Minnesota is the ICE.

On Saturday around 1pm-ish it started to precipitate a little so I decided to go for a quick run.  When my eye lids started sticking closed I decided it was time to cut things short.  By the time I finished my 25 minute run my front side was covered in ice.   What a weird feeling.  Of course…the ice outside stuck around until the next day (Sunday and a little today still) making my drive out to Belmont and back an adventure.  I am not sure how many of you out there have driven on a sheet of ice before but let me say this…”IT IS NOT FUN.”  Stopping was a luxury that forced me to think ahead (way ahead).   I did make it out to Belmont and back without an incident…and I have yet to hear of any in the last couple days (Praise God).  But with the good you have to take the bad I guess.

There’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere…right?

(1) Going through life we need to watch our step; we could slip and fall at any moment.
(2) Christ gives us life, but we still need to deal with sin (The good and the bad).
(3) Sin may be fun, but it’s slippery slope will hurt you and others.

I may be reaching…but leave it to a pastor to look for sermon illustrations in nearly everything.  Stay tuned, though, I have another sermon illustration coming up shortly; something that happened this morning.


Monday morning check in

Greetings and salutations…and welcome to another addition of “Monday morning check in” (I have no clue what that was…I guess I am just in a goofy mood this morning).


…if anyone is curious, the Twin Cities marathon web site has some pictures posted of me crossing the finish line.  In a couple of them you can definitely see my pain 🙂  To view these snap shots simply go to the website at:  http://www.mtcmarathon.com.  Once there click on “finisher photos” under the marathon section then enter my bib number: 4387.  There are a couple picture there that are not me.  I am the one wearing the dark long sleeve t-shirt with the red hat (or the one in more pain than the others).  Enjoy 🙂

Paying taxes (Matthew 22:15-22)
How appropriate that we get a text that talks about paying taxes.  In a time of economic hardship the last thing people want to hear about is paying taxes.  Here in Jackson, taxes are a huge issue.  There is a battle currently waging about the proposed construction or renovation of the county Resource Center.  Some want to see a brand new building and others want the current one (the old high school) renovated.  Either way, taxes would go up quite a bit in Jackson.  And this is after the new school referendum passed last year that some people believe the district is misusing.  What a time we live in.

Here in Matthew 22:15-22 the Pharisees are looking for some dirt to nail Jesus with so they try to trap him with the issue of taxes.  If he says that people should pay them then his followers would get upset.  If Jesus says they shouldn’t pay taxes, then the Pharisees could bring that info to Caesar and accuse him of treason.  But Jesus is smarter than this as he responds, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s“.  So the question is what is Caesar’s and what is God’s?  Discuss…

…to be continued…


A goal accomplished…the Twin Cities marathon

Thirteen months ago I set the lofty goal of running and finishing the Medtronic Twin Cities marathon.  Friends and family thought I was crazy but were still supportive.  I began training and losing weight to prepare myself for this grueling test of human endurance.  Yesterday was the culmination of that goal when I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 2 minutes and 28 seconds.  It was a wonderful experience and one that is hard to put into words…but of course you know that I am going to try…

At race time (8am) the temperature was 48 degrees with over cast skies that threatened to rain on us.  As I Stood on the street next to the HHH Metrodome, waiting to begin, I found the 5 hour pace team leader, Lori.  Lori’s Job was to help us cross the finish line in under 5 hours.  Most of the people in this group were first time marathoners with the exception of a couple who were running their 2nd.  The strategy laid out for us was that we were going to run for 5 minutes and then walk for 1 minute through the whole race.  At first I was a little annoyed with the walking part and considered leaving this group, but I didn’t…and I am glad I stuck with Lori and the team.  Those 1 minutes walks were a great way to conserve energy.

The gun sounded, 11,000 people cheered and we were off.  For the first couple miles I never gave a second thought to the fact that I would be running for 5 hours.  I just took in the whole experience:  The mass of people running, the crowds cheering along the way, and the beautiful scenery.  At about mile 2 (the Walker Art Center) the over cast skies followed through with their threat and it started to drizzle, but that wasn’t so bad…I’ve run in drizzle before.  At around mile 3 to 4 the drizzle became a steady rain and got heavier.  We rain in a semi-hard rain until around mile 8 to 9 then it started to let up.  By the half way point the drizzle was gone but it was still chilly as the wind blow off the lakes.

At the half way point I was doing great and our pace team was 1 1/2 minutes ahead schedule.  At this point I became a little anxious though…because mile 15 was approaching.  Back in August I ran a 18.6 mile race where I hit the proverbial wall at 15 miles.  I was wondering what would happen to me this time, but when I passed the mile 15 marker I was still feeling great with plenty of energy.  This was a huge emotional and psychological boost for me.  The next milestone was mile 19 which would mark the longest I have ever run.  It is also around the time when most runners hit the proverbial wall.  Mile 19 passed and I was still doing great…but that was about to change…

Back at mile 17 Lori warned us to make sure we carb up for the mile 20 hills.  So when we approached the aid station at mile 17 we took our gel/energy packs.  I ate a protein bar and took in some fluids.  I was ready for the hills.  But at 20 1/2 miles the very thing I feared the most happened…muscles in both legs started to cramp up.  I remember pleading with God, “Please God, not now…I am less than 6 miles away”.  So I pushed through the pain.  But just before mile 22 the pain became more than I could handle so I had to let my pace team go and say good bye to my 5 hour goal.  Psychologically I was devastated and felt like giving up.  But then a voice in my head (God of course) kept saying “13 months…13 months”…that is how long I had been training for this marathon.  I decided then and there I was not going to let some annoying leg cramps stop me.

After a little walking the cramps went away so I started running again, but after a minute or so the cramps came back so I was forced to walk.  And this was the routine for the rest of the marathon…4 miles worth.  At mile 24 I got an emotional boost when I heard someone call my name out…it was Connie’s sister and brother with our 2 1/2 year old nephew.  Their presence and support meant so much to me.

At mile 25 I knew I was almost there and I knew that I was actually going to do this.  When I crossed the mile 26 marker (with 0.2 miles to go) I could see the finish line…and it was all down hill (thank God).  The street was lined with cheering people and I started running.  My cramps weren’t gone yet but I decided that I was not going to walk across the finish line.  I started running and I was going to finish running.  So through the intense pain I keep my eyes fixed on the finish line banner listening to the announcers call out every name that crossed the finished line.  At this moment I became overwhelmed with emotions and tears started streaming down my face.  And…as I crossed that finish line…and heard my name…I completely lost it.  I actually finished .  For a few moments the pain in my legs did not matter…I made it…26.2 miles…5 hours and 2 minutes (and 28 seconds)…through the rain and wind and lots of pain…I made it.  I clung to my finishers medal as if someone was trying to steal it.  I made it…and no one can take that away from me.  I feel such a sense of accomplishment and it is that I can not adequately put into words.

But before I finish this post (and please excuse me for going on so long) I need to give a HUGE thank you to my family…Connie, my mom and my sister…who ran around town, dodging closed roads to cheer for me at 4 points along the route.  They stood in the rain and showed their love and support…THANK YOU.  And thank you to everyone out there that gave me well wishes and were praying for me.  Knowing that there were so many people praying was also a huge boost for me.  Thank you to friends (like Brad) who gave me words of encouragement and advice through this blog and Facebook.  Thank you to anyone else I am missing.  And of course…I need to thank God, for God alone gave me the energy and strength to complete this marathon.  THANK YOU GOD…TO YOU BE THE GLORY!

Now…what’s next?  Will I run another marathon?  Well…right now my legs are very stiff and sore so I am not thinking about that right now.  I know that my running is not done, but I am just not sure what future races I will enter.  Part of me wants to tackle those mile 20 hills again and try to finish in under 5 hours next year, but first things first…I need to heal and recover then I will set some more goals.

Thank you for putting up with all my marathon talk these past 13 months but I got a feeling it is not going to end.  Being a pastor…I encountered so my sermon illustrations yesterday that they are bound to show up here sometime in the future.

With that…I am going to get up and loosen my legs up a bit and find a couple ice packs.  Take care and God bless.