His Name Is John

March 26, 2015

“How can I be sure this will happen? I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” –Luke 1:18

Not his best moment. If you read today’s chapter, you know that Zacharias has just been given really great news; news of eternal significance. He’s been told that Elizabeth will bear him a son. And his son will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah no doubt. He’ll be the frontrunner! And not only that, the courier of this miracle message wasn’t a neighbor. It wasn’t a trusted uncle or even the High Priest. No, Zacharias heard this first-hand from — wait for it — none other than Angel Gabriel himself.

Now, all things being equal, you’d think it would prompt Zacharias to simply rejoice, trust and obey. But as you read in today’s verse, Zacharias chose to respond like you and I often do.

Who me? I’m not qualified for that job, have you seen my resume?
Who me? A missionary? Have you read my laundry list of weaknesses?
Who me? Regain my health after years of negligence? What good can this body accomplish?

There’s no telling how effective we would be for the Lord if we trusted the things God lays on our hearts. You know, the little faith of Zacharias spoke volumes, so Gabriel made him mute. Months later, on the very day of his son’s birth, those standing around Elizabeth objected to his given name. But Zacharias — still mute — boldly wrote on his tablet: HIS NAME IS JOHN.

And in that instant, the Bible says he got his voice back.

–Jimmy Peña

Question: When you and I let fear and doubt cloud our hearts and minds, we too become mute. Isn’t it interesting that Zacharias was only allowed to speak after he changed his heart and trusted? What has God put on your heart that you need a voice for?  What roadblocks and barriers are rearing their heads? What is your God-given plan? Let’s clear our throats and speak.

I Will Carry You

March 25, 2015

Kids picking up firewood helping their Daddy. A teenager helping his mom with chores carrying a heavy bin. A new husband carrying his bride across the threshold. Life is full of moments – from the forgettable to the priceless – where we carry things and where we carry others. Yesterday I sat down with a young leader in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) here in California. We met for coffee to discuss the upcoming PrayFit RISE conference and just to meet as new friends. Neat guy. Newly married, new to Los Angeles, new to ministry. Best part, he loves baseball. A former ballplayer himself, he actually looks like he could play football instead. Big guy. Gentle giant.

Well, my mind wandered as we were talking. He’s just starting his life, I thought to myself, making an impact on countless athletes. Who knows the number of kids this guy will influence. It was neat to talk to him. And I tried as best I could to relay what we’re hoping to do with our little ministry; where I’ve been, and what the Lord has seen me through. I didn’t go into too much detail about my health, but I gave him a condensed version. I basically told him, I can’t carry much anymore.

Dear friends, Steven Curtis Chapman sings a neat song with a simple message. I will carry you to Jesus on my knees. I want that to be true. I may not be physically able anymore – I’m not even able to do my own DVD series that many of you have loved over the years – but if you need to cry, I’ll cry with you. I’ll give you what I have. I’ll carry you to Jesus on my knees.
-Jimmy Peña

Sentimental Me: Can you tell this was typed in tears? Oh well, many of you know me by now and probably aren’t surprised. Who in your life do you carry to Jesus? How is your health helping you share Jesus with those you know and love?

Either Spoken or Sung

March 24, 2015

I’m likely giving away my age when I remind you of one of my favorite praise and worship songs, “I Just Came To Praise The Lord.” Anyone?…Anyone?

“I just came to praise the Lord.
I just came to praise the Lord.
I just came to praise His holy name.
I just came to praise the Lord.”

Classic, right? On more than one occasion, I’ve felt like that in church. Shake hands, wave at friends, but get me to my seat. I need to talk to Jesus. I felt like that on my walk yesterday. I didn’t set any land speed records, but it’s always such a good time talking to the Lord, cleansing my heart, clearing my mind, praying for family, asking for wisdom, planning the PrayFit RISE conference. Far beyond the physical benefits the walking is doing to my continued recovery, my training has always been an extension of my quiet time. Sure, each stride sends vital nutrients to aid in healing, but my walk is more important.

Try it. Next time you hit the gym or go for your jog, remember today’s little ditty. As you raise those weights overhead, remember the ultimate burden He lifted. As you run your miles, recall the distance He went to call you His own. And I know, the world will demand that you “focus” on the goal and the reason you’re in the gym in the first place. And your response can either be spoken or sung, because truly, you are.

–Jimmy Peña

Pray For Us: We’re less than 3 weeks away from PrayFit RISE Los Angeles. PRAYFIT-RISE-LOGO-FINALGuys, we’re getting so excited and so much to do. We thank you and we covet your prayers for the attendees, speakers, and volunteers.
“GRACE IS ENOUGH”
Featuring:
Matt Brown of Think Eternity,
David Martin of I AM SECOND students,
Lauren DeMoss of TheFulltimeGirl,
Brooke Boon of Holy Yoga,
Alisa Keeton of Revelation Wellness,
Dana White of The Food Network,
Jarrid Wilson of LifePoint Church,
with Shawn Thornton of Calvary Community
and Scotty Smith of The Gospel Coalition.
Special musical guest Brenton Brown
and hosted by Jimmy Peña of PrayFit Ministries
(Sponsored in part by Pepperdine University, Bible Logos, Holy Yoga, Revelation Wellness, and Leland Family Ministries in association with Panera Bread and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.)

God Is Big Enough

March 23, 2015

Back in 2007 when I was the fitness director at Muscle & Fitness Magazine (prior to all the illness and when I was still put together physically) I had an email conversation with Louie Giglio (many of you are Louie fans). Louie and I go back to my college days at Baylor. Anyway, we were discussing God’s purpose for my life which was to impact the fitness industry for Christ, and he gave me some of the best advice I ever received. He simply said, “Jimmy, embrace your smallness.” Boy, was he spot on.

Guys, Charles Spurgeon once said, “Health is a gift from God, but sickness is a gift greater still.” Spurgeon suffered with various physical problems that eventually took his life. He wanted to be healthy, but he knew the value of being sick, and he thanked God for it because it was his pain that caused him to desperately draw near to God.GodsWillGoodHealth

On the subject, Pastor Tullian says, “When you’re aware of your smallness through sickness, when you become aware of your dependence and your neediness, you actually come to life! There is something liberating about waking up each day knowing you’re not nearly as strong as you think you are.”

BOOOM! I just got the chills typing that. Indeed, great faith doesn’t mean great health; too many saints in Heaven for that to be true. If you’re suffering or you have loved ones suffering (or even if you’re strong as an ox still able to battle) be encouraged. Grace is enough. God’s love never fails even when our bodies do. When you lay your head down on your pillow later tonight, do what I do. Squeeze it and smile. Embrace your smallness knowing God is big enough.
-Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: As we begin a new week, what two things do you pray for and cherish?

A Courageous Reaction

March 19, 2015

What a week, right? So blessed by C.S. Lewis and his children’s tale “Chronicles of Narnia.” I could likely write a month’s worth of devotions about them, because the films are so full of gold, but nonetheless, for those that were here each day to be encouraged, I hope that came true.

You know, a sign we’re growing in grace is knowing the source of our strength. And on Monday we were reminded that we need godly courage to meet each day’s needs, and all those needs can only be met by the Lion in us. Tuesday young Edmund helped us recall that no matter how far we’ve wandered, despite our mistakes and missteps, and even in the midst of unforeseen infirmities, a face-to-face with Jesus is the birthplace of faith and the beginning of courage. And yesterday (my favorite moment of the week) little Reepicheep offered his sword, but was quickly taught that he thought too much of his honor. (Right?) Neat, neat.

Courage. Godly courage. I have very little of it. But during weeks like this, something inside me rises up. Somewhere deep in my heart, a timid Jimmy digs his heels in a little deeper for whatever the day has in store. Hopefully that’s the same for you. Whether you need courage for your health, an illness, work-related issue, family struggle, or sharing Christ with strangers, I pray your default reaction is a courageous one.

And so….farewell, Aslan. Or as the kids of Narnia would say, “Long live, Aslan!” Yeah, thanks my friend. Needed you this week. Thank you for reminding us that with Jesus in our hearts, we’ve conquered this world through Him. Thank you for the courage you’ve helped us summon through the gospel of grace. And I meant what I said. If I could hug you, I would. So as this sentimental fool types through his tears, I think I speak for all the readers today when I say you’re welcome here anytime.
Jimmy Peña

farewellAslan

DID YOU ENJOY COURAGE WEEK? Hope so. Any thoughts? Feedback on the week? Love to hear from you and pray with you.

Lost Tails And All

March 18, 2015

Well, before we say goodbye to Aslan, I wanted to hopefully encourage you with one more principle that I drew from C.S. Lewis in his children’s tale. In a cute, comical scene, Aslan is talking to Reepicheep; a brave, sword-fighting mouse who has lost his tail in a great battle. While Aslan tells Reepicheep that the shortened tail becomes him well, Reepicheep dramatically offers his sword to Aslan saying that because of his deformity, he must resign from duty. “All the same, great King. I regret that I must withdraw, for a tail is the honor and glory of a mouse.” Then Aslan delivers probably one of the strongest lines in the film (perfect for mice and men.) He replied, “Perhaps you think too much of your honor, friend.”

Wow. I actually pressed rewind to hear that again. Perhaps you think too much of your honor. What a powerful principle and a perfect reminder for us during courage week. Guys, when we focus on our abilities, inabilities, physical or otherwise, we get wrapped up in our own honor and ego. We think if we’re not whole, we’re not us. But with God, we’re whole. We’re enough. Lost tails and all.

Jimmy Peña


For Discussion: I can relate to Reepicheep. I used to be pretty fit and strong; put together. (True story.) Honor intact, I had the world by the…tail. Then I started losing spinal disks and colon function. LOL, yeah, that’ll do it. Many a day I offered God my sword, withdrawing from duty. Like Reepicheep, I thought too much of my honor. But God had other plans. So I kept typing, He kept healing. Yeah, I used to think I was put together with muscle and bone, when in truth, I’ve always been held together by a thread. And that’s enough.

Facing Courage

March 17, 2015

And then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry.”
– lyrics of “The Call” from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Here we find Edmund before heading off to war – a stubborn, power-hungry, disobedient boy who wandered away from what was right to seek his own glory – seen here talking to Aslan. The neat part about this scene – and the reason I chose it today – is that we don’t hear the conversation between the two. What we do know is that all it took for Edmund to turn his life around was a face-to-face with the One who saved him.Edmund_aslan

Courage is our battle cry this week, and so many people responded to yesterday’s entry. Prayer requests, special needs, courage seekers, and as I type this very sentence a need was posted from a reader who can’t quite put into words what she’s feeling or thinking. Having wandered far from God, as well as, recently diagnosed with cancer, she’s unsure of what she needs or if she’s even worthy to ask for it.

Guys, so many people around us are hurting, scared and desperate; in need of hope as they head off to war.

Truth: No matter how far we’ve wandered, despite our mistakes and missteps, and even in the midst of unforeseen infirmities, a face-to-face with Jesus is the birthplace of faith and the beginning of courage.

Are you waiting to hear the diagnosis? Got a big meeting at 4:00pm PST? Does your neighbor need your forgiveness? Maybe it’s time to take back your health? Whatever it is, let the word “courage” grow louder and louder inside your heart until it’s a battle cry. Because like we learn from Edmund, the best we can do is know who our friends are when we head off to war. Amen to that. No matter who or what you’re up against today, before you face them, face Him.
Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What Biblical character can you think of that – even after wandering far from God – received courage by going back to the beginning for a face-to-face?

The Lion In Us

March 16, 2015

With less than a month away from PrayFit RISE Los Angeles, Loretta and I decided to go back to Narnia. We talked about Narnia last summer, and I hope you don’t mind if we talk “courage” this week. Considered a classic in children’s literature, the teaching principles throughout these C.S. Lewis stories are innumerable. And to think there are seven Narnia books, and rumors are swirling of a fourth movie. If you haven’t seen or read them, the main character is a lion named Aslan; an alternate version of Jesus in these fantasy tales.ASLAN

Wiping away tears at the end of each film, Loretta and I both agreed that if we could hug Aslan, we’d do so and never let go. We’d follow him everywhere, never letting him out of our sight. If the most gentle and powerful being of all time were our closest friend and at our side day and night, we’d have courage to talk about God with anyone, anywhere, anytime. We’d forgive sooner and help more. And don’t get us started on how much less we’d worry. (You know where I’m going with this, so I won’t even say it.)

This month is a big one at PrayFit, but I know I won’t be alone. Many won’t be able to see Him at my side but they’ll know He’s there; by my words, my spirit, my heart and by this week’s theme of devotions, my courage.

Over the next few days, we’ll talk courage when it comes to our health and well-being. Fact is, whether we’re super healthy, severely ill and anywhere in-between, we need godly courage to meet each day’s needs. And all those needs can only be met by the Lion in us.
Jimmy and Loretta Peña

Prayer Requests of Courage: Anyone facing something this week that you’d like us to help you pray about? Job interview? Doctor’s appointment? Presentation? Sale pending? Trying to share Christ with a co-worker? Are you losing a battle with pride? It takes courage to face it all. List your need here or simply say “Unspoken” and this little band of your brothers and sisters promises to pray for you.

Approval-Free

March 13, 2015

I shared this prayer yesterday on social media, and I think it’s perfect for us on a Friday. Ideal for the fitness-minded believer. Pastor Scotty titled it: A Prayer from Living as an “Approval Suck.” Kinda catches you off-guard, right? Well, the prayer catches me between the eyes. Praying with you all. Have a good weekend. Approval-free.

Dear heavenly Father, it’s not just apostles who need freedom from living for the approval of people; it’s all of us, it’s me. We can’t love people well if our need for affirmation, or fear of rejection, is greater than our love for you.

As I look at my relational brokenness and sin, I can see how “people pleasing” has played out in two ways in my story. On one hand, there’ve been people to whom I’ve looked to give me life. Their praise could make me, and their shame could break me.

On the other hand, there’ve been people in whose lives I’ve assumed the role of life giver. The need to be needed can be crippling, for all parties involved. I grieve both of these patterns, Father, but I also rejoice at how you’ve been freeing me. But I don’t want to live as an “approval suck”—even a little bit.

It’s only because the gospel is true, I can freely confess my sin and brokenness—without wearing the burden of guilt or a sense of being a spiritual pigmy. I’m so thankful for the liberty grace gives us not to pose and pretend. Because the gospel is powerful, I have hope for even more change, and bring it on Father.

I want to love others as Jesus loves me, and as he loves them; so help me to take back the power I’ve given certain people over my heart. I don’t want to shrink in the presence of anybody; and I don’t want to look to any human being to “complete me.” That’s your role Father.

So by the power Holy Spirit, keep blasting my heart with the gospel—keep bearing witness with my spirit that I’m your beloved child, Abba, Father. That’s the way to greater freedom; that’s the only way to relational health and emotional freedom. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ loving and liberating.
Scotty Smith 

Make Believe

March 12, 2015

“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” –1 Corinthians 9:26
Read: 1 Corinthians 9

As I was leaving Gio’s Boxing Gym in Burbank some time ago, amid the familiar cadence of speed bags and jump ropes, something a cornerman yelled to his boxer caught my attention. “Stop trying to look like a fighter and be a fighter!” he said. I literally stopped in my tracks. What a powerful statement. Just how powerful, I’d realize just moments later.

Walking toward my truck, I came upon a film crew about to shoot a documentary — a boxing documentary, no doubt. Lights, cameras and make-up. I stood for what seemed like years and watched a make-up artist applying shades of purple, black and blue to an actor’s face and under his eyes. Boxing gloves? Check. Legitimate shorts? Those too. But he wasn’t dressed for – nor returning from – a real battle. “Stop trying to look like a fighter and be a fighter,” ironically echoed in my head.

I wonder about my faith. And maybe you wonder about yours. Am I a make-believer in life? Or do I help make believers with my life? Like the verse above, I don’t want to shadowbox. I want purpose. Give me somethin’ to hit.

–Jimmy Peña

Question: In what area of your life, spiritually or physically, do you need to stand to fight? How can the Prayfit community pray for you? List your battles below or simply say, ‘Unspoken.’

Jesus Lifted ME.
Speaking of something to hit. Can you all pray for us as we prepare for our first PrayFit conference? It’s right around the corner. I covet your prayers. Also, we’ve unveiled the conference tee. PRAYFIT-JESUS-LIFTED-TEE-MOCKThe shirt says it all. You can help support the effort by preordering yours. It’s available only until the conference and ships immediately after. Thanks for your help.