Imperfect Me

March 5, 2015

Been a good week for me personally. Hope it’s been the same for all of you. (Say ‘amen’ in the comment section if hearing something about Gideon, Moses and Daniel BEFORE they became “Gideon, Moses and Daniel” has been a blessing.)

Well, in the heart of our week’s theme, I came across a list of Biblical characters that had their share of “before” moments.

–Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked. Jonah ran from God. Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. John the Baptist ate bugs. Peter denied Christ. The Disciples fell asleep while praying. Martha worried about everything. The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once. Zaccheus was too small. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer…AND Lazarus…..was dead!
(Author Unknown)

I admit, I could have (or probably have) written devotions on each character and story. However, please be sure and tune in tomorrow for just…one…more.

And lastly, this week’s theme is perfect for a song I shared with you about a year ago. It’s called “Imperfect Me” by my friend Smokie Norful. Bless your life and download this song on iTunes. Read the sweet lyrics. Similar to our “Before They Were Conquerors” week, this song asks the Lord, “Why Me? How do you see the good in imperfect me?”
And tomorrow, we’ll answer it.
Jimmy Peña

For so long I’ve tried to figure out the reason why
You used my life as a sign and a guiding light.
I’m a bird with one wing,
A song with no melody,
But somehow I fly and sing
Because of how You see me.
What do you know that I don’t?
And how do you hear that song in me?
I say I’m lost. You say I’m free.
How do you see the good in imperfect me?

Go Back and Ask

March 4, 2015

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites. I AM has sent me to you.–Exodus 3:14

Back in high school, I had a basketball coach ask me if I’d come back to the team. It had been a couple years since I’d played, and by then I’d become a one-sport athlete. His question was as brief as it was surprising when he asked, “Jimmy, we need you back. Will you play?” My response was only a little less expected than what he said next. I replied, “Wow coach, thank you. I just need to check with my Dad first.” To which he smiled and said, “No Jimmy, I was only testing you, seeing if you’d be there for us.

He shook my hand and thanked me. (I admit, I was relieved.) A little test, I guess. Whether I passed or not, I’m not sure. But I’ve thought about that moment over the years. His question – my response – his reply. And I remember telling my Dad about it later that night. He loved that my answer required his blessing.

When Moses needed a name, he got one. “Tell them I AM sent you.” Before Moses did any conquering, before he became one of the greatest leaders the world ever knew, he needed guidance. The leader needed leading. So he went back and asked for it. Not the run-of-the-mill, garden-variety, Twitter-savvy kind of guidance, but he needed what only God could give; Himself.

Notice, Moses didn’t gather his wits, self-confidence or assurance. He didn’t look in the mirror or take a selfie and repeat to himself, “You’re Moses, you’re strong, talented, you’re handsome and happy. You GOT THIS!” No, Moses knew what was up. And he wasn’t up for the task without the Lord. Who are we to think otherwise?
Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Isn’t it reassuring to begin a task knowing you’ve been praying about it? But if you’re like me, you can remember times (even as recently as yesterday) that you began something without going back to ask. Before we can conquer anything for the Lord, we need the blessing from the Lord.

Not A Scratch

March 3, 2015

Continuing our “Before They Were Conquerors” series, Danny was class president. Voted most likely to succeed. He was large and in charge. His name topped the list. Yes indeed, he out-shined them all. And they hated him for it. In fact, Danny’s enemies resented him so much that they looked into his past to find at least one skeleton to bust him; just one scandal to try and ruin his reputation and bring him down a notch or two. But alas, not a scratch on him. The bullies in his life couldn’t find one bad thing about him. No dirt. So they figured the only way to bring down this “goody two-shoes” was to trap him and find him breaking the law; a law they were about to write.

THE DECREE: “For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions’ den.” (v. 6-7)

THE RESPONSE: “When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.” (v.10)Daniel

This is where this gets good for me. Walking out of the lion’s den without a scratch on him, Daniel said, “God sent his angel who closed the mouths of the lions…” Yes sir. He praised God. The first thing he did was the very thing that got him thrown down there in the first place. And as far as his enemies, the decree that was meant to shut the mouth of Daniel did not have the effect they had hoped. (You have to read the rest of the chapter six to find out what I mean.)

Maybe you’re taking a stance. Could be for better health, maybe it’s your stance on humility, your decision not to gossip, or your inability to quit on a dream you know God inspired in you…either way…you will not flinch. Is that you? Are you praising God despite the rules? Maybe Daniel is your Biblical counterpart. Before he was a conqueror, he worshiped. My, what company you keep.
- Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Eventually, Daniel even had king Darius himself worshiping God. Can you think of a better legacy?

 

 

 

I Am The Least

March 2, 2015

Last week we mentioned we were going to take a look at Biblical characters at the moment before they became conquerors, and well, Gideon’s story is so cool. To get somewhat of a sense of a backdrop, read the first part of Judges 6 with me:

“Yet again the People of Israel went back to doing evil in God’s sight. God put them under the domination of Midian for seven years. Midian overpowered Israel. Because of Midian, the People of Israel made for themselves hideouts in the mountains—caves and forts. When Israel planted its crops, Midian and Amalek, the easterners, would invade them, camp in their fields, and destroy their crops all the way down to Gaza. They left nothing for them to live on, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. Bringing their cattle and tents, they came in and took over, like an invasion of locusts. And their camels—past counting! They marched in and devastated the country. The People of Israel, reduced to grinding poverty by Midian, cried out to God for help.” (v. 1-6)

Pretty bleak times for Israel. Well, enter Gideon. Hiding in a wine press, Gideon is threshing wheat in private to avoid being seen by the Midianites when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “God is with you, mighty warrior.” Now, this exchange is where this gets good for me, because first, I can imagine Gideon looking over his shoulder when he replied, “Who, me? My family is the weakest, and I am the least of them.” But the angel of the Lord knew what Gideon was capable of – and probably knew the future – and addressed Gideon by his God-given character and future reputation and said, “Go in your strength.” (v. 14)

Wow. This wasn’t some pep talk: You can do it, Gideon. This was a descriptionGod is with you, man of valor and you’ve already done it.GodandI

As we start the week, what’s on your plate? Big meeting at work? School stuff? How’s your health? Let’s go to Him together as a family. List your prayer requests for the week or simply say “unspoken” and we will all pray for each other. Gideon knew he was the least, but with God he had a future. Like us.
Jimmy

 

Before They Were Conquerors

February 27, 2015

In my men’s Bible study this semester, we’re studying the books of Joshua and Judges, and this week we began our discussion on Gideon. Many of us are probably familiar with the story of Gideon, but what was Gideon doing right before God called him? It’s a question I learned the answer to earlier this week, and I think I’d like to wrap our hearts around its idea. We’ll get into it further, but Gideon said, “I am the least” after the angel of the Lord told him, “Go in your strength.” It’s pretty cool. If you can, read the first 6 chapters of Judges this weekend (or listen to them on our app.)

The Bible says that you and I have been made more than conquerors, overcomers in this life through Jesus. Past tense. We’ve been made conquerors, because to God our future is history, and when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was not only talking to us but He was talking for us. Like my pastor Shawn Thornton says, “Jesus didn’t just die for us, He lived for us too.” What relief.

You know, as I learned -specifically through Gideon’s life this week – I don’t always pray with that kind of comfort, let alone that kind of faith. As a matter of fact, I wonder how I would pray if I knew what God knew. How would you pray if you knew what God knew? That thought may deserve an entry next week, but beginning Monday, we’re going to take a look a few Biblical characters and examine their lives before the glory in their story. I think we will all learn something pretty valuable about our own lives and how we deal with our health. I hope you’ll join me. Have a great weekend everyone. Grow in grace. – Jimmy

Oxygen Debt

February 26, 2015

As athletes, you know the feeling; hands on your knees, trying to catch your breath after a grueling set of wind sprints. You try and stand tall, putting your hands on your head, desperately gasping for air. Before you know it, coach blows the whistle for the team to get back on the line to do it all over again.

In exercise physiology there are all sorts of wonderful phenomena going on inside your body immediately following an intense bout of exercise. One of the more traditional terms tossed around, and one that was hammered into my head during graduate school, was the term “oxygen debt.” And for the sake of the conversation, you can think of oxygen debt as recovery time, or the amount of oxygen required during recovery to get your body back to a steady, normal state. The thing of it is, while it’s called oxygen debt, it’s not something you can actually pay back.OxygenDebt

Rev. Scotty Smith says, “Breathe in God’s grace like you breath in air. It’s just as vital, actually, more so.” Reading that makes me think back to those old days of training. If you’re a swimmer, maybe the gasp just above the water is a better picture. Either way, air is vital for our survival. But even more so is the grace that God offers us through Jesus. And the sin debt He paid in full on the cross of Calvary is a debt we can’t repay. Good works — when performed to try and keep us in good standing — will only leave us gasping; think of a fish out of water. That’s us without grace.

So while we’re in the midst of the Lenten season, keep that in mind. Grace allows us to breathe easy while we work. Because no matter your success or failure at whatever commitment the beautiful Holy season inspires in you, God can’t love you any more or any less than He does right now. So don’t try and repay Him. Simply accept His grace, take a deep breath and sigh.

–Jimmy Peña

Our RSVP

February 25, 2015

Last week around this time you would have seen me polishing my shoes and straightening my tie, as Loretta made some last minute decisions on earrings. We dressed up. Yes sir. Although my beautiful bride and I were likely the most unrecognizable pair at the pre-Oscar party, we dressed to the nines. Granted, our names are not in lights or surrounded by a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, so I know full well that our presence wasn’t because of anything we’d done, but only because of who I know (and who knows me).AngelsRejoice

One of my favorite writers, Pastor Tullian said, “Grace is the gift with no strings attached.” Like our presence at the party, nothing we’ve done merits the invitation, but because the Host wants us there, our acceptance is enough. And I like to think that our temporary health – our life – is in many ways our opportunity to proclaim our RSVP (and to invite others to join us.)
Jimmy Peña

P.S.
And you know what’s cool? We spent a good portion of our time with some folks who didn’t merit the invitation either, but who also loved Jesus. We sat and realized how blessed we were to be there, and we talked about Jesus a lot. (Good practice.)

–Jimmy Peña

45 DAYS!
PFLASpeaking of RSVP, there are 45 days until PrayFit RISE Los Angeles; a time discussing our health as it relates to service, evangelism, worship, stewardship, discipline and more – and of course – seen through the gospel’s lens. We’re wanting nothing more, and we’re praying for nothing less than for Jesus to be glorified in all we think, say and do. We hope you can join us. (www.prayfitrise.org)
(If you can’t, you may have friends on Facebook and other social media that may not follow PrayFit but who may live in the Los Angeles area. Would you share this just in case?) They may want to attend and we’ll enjoy serving them. Thanks everyone and pray for us!

Grace In Numbers

February 24, 2015

“But he gives us more grace.” –James 4:6

Max Lucado once wrote, “Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.” I thought of that quote yesterday while going through the vast number of prayer requests for those needing to come to Christ; each name was mentioned out loud and every need lifted by all of us at PrayFit, not to mention a countless number of all of you that went through them. Thank you for your prayer support. Grace in numbers.

Speaking of, how many of you reading this today are hearing the voice of grace? You eat right, get your exercise in, take your vitamins. But there’s something that’s been missing. Something more important. Something…deeper. A show of hands of those that have taken care of the body, but you hear God knocking on the door of your heart, letting you know He misses His time with you. Or maybe the voice inside is urging you to improve your relationship with your spouse, someone at work, or “that” neighbor. Until now, you’ve shrugged it off. You’ve done the math and you can’t figure out why bother. Besides, the mirror still agrees with you, the money isn’t bad, and you suppose that “If that neighbor wants to talk to me — then, well — they can come talk to me.” But that’s what grace is. It’s the solution to our toughest equations.

I know sometimes the math of life just doesn’t add up. We scratch our heads. We multiply our hurts and subtract our days. We feel divided, because it’s not always easy to forgive, or cope, or strive, or to be modest, or patient, or try harder, or quieter. But the longer I live, the sweeter the proof is that when you carry the One, grace always solves for why.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: What is the voice of grace urging you to change? Your health? Bible study time? Other? Remember, if the Lord is urging us, He gives us the power to pull it off.

That Is The Technique

February 23, 2015

Watching a friend’s conference online this weekend, I had the enormous pleasure of listening to various teachers and preachers address students at Wheaton College. The topic of the weekend was evangelism, and Matt Brown (author of Awakening and PrayFit RISE LA special guest) assembled all the speakers for the gathering. It’s amazing how powerful words are, because even though I was a thousand miles away, I was impacted tremendously.

There I was at my laptop, watching worship leaders play and sing, when they called their next speaker, Will Graham; the grandson of Billy Graham. Oh guys, I can’t explain how good it was. He sounded so much like his grandaddy, first of all, but some of the things he said reminded me of last week’s entries. And something in particular caught my heart’s attention. He said, “If anyone knows it’s not about him, it’s my grandfather. Billy Graham has nothing special in him to call anyone to Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.” He went on to say, “Faith comes by hearing – and hearing by the Word of God. My friends, THAT is the technique. You’ll never lead anyone to Christ without words. You’ll never live a good enough life to lead someone to Christ.” (Wow. Go ahead and take all that in again.)

Evangelism: The Preaching of the Gospel of Jesus. As we start our week, let Will Graham’s words echo in your heart as they echo in mine. We talked about evangelizing the fitness industry last week, but let’s make sure we actually talk about and say the name JESUS to those we run with, stretch with, and train beside. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we want to talk about Him. And the more we want to talk about Him, the more opportunities we’ll find to do so. And the more we do so, the more we’ll actually evangelize our industry. THAT is the technique.
Jimmy Peña

Prayer Requests: I have some friends I am hoping come to know Jesus as their Savior, will you help me pray for them? And if you have friends you’re working on, raise your hand here by saying “Yes” in the comments section and your name and those you’re hoping come to know Christ will be raised in our prayer time.

 

The Missing Peace

February 20, 2015

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” –1 Corinthians 14:33

I’ve never been very good at riddles. My brain just doesn’t work like that. Crosswords? Forget ‘em. For the life of me, I can’t keep from looking up the answers in the back of the book. But puzzles? Well, that’s a different story. Loretta and I enjoy a good puzzle. Shopping for one is easy too. You just find a cool picture, and that’s it. You bring it home, spread the puzzle out on the table, prop up the photo and get to work. It’s not long before what used to be in pieces begins to take the shape of the goal.peacepuzzle

But how easy would it be if you took away the box with the picture on it? Tough, right? Or what if you turned off the lights, what then? How easy would it be to put that puzzle together?

For those without Christ, that’s life. They piece together hours, days and weeks, assembling their lives — on feel alone — without Christ. As Christians, our lives are not easily assembled either. (If you’re with me, say ‘amen’.) Though we have Christ as our picture of perfection and more than enough light for a million-piece-life, we still stumble and struggle to put it together. Yet deep inside, we have that missing peace, don’t we?

You know, Loretta and I can both be looking for the same piece of our little puzzle and when one of us finds it, what’s the first thing we do? We show it to each other. We share it. Then we watch how it fills the empty space. And it’s not long before what used to be in pieces begins to take the shape of the goal. You and I have the missing peace, and someone we know is searching for Him. Someone at the gym, in spin class, at the yoga studio. No more riddles. Let’s tell them.

–Jimmy Peña

Have a good weekend, kids.