“No Mas” – Part II

October 30, 2014

He saved others, why doesn’t He save Himself? Some of those at the foot of the Cross stood in absolute wonder. And why not? They had velvet rope access to the miracles. They saw the blind see, the lame walk and the mute talk. They were eyewitnesses to His power and might. And yet there He was. Hanging on a cross to die.

You’ll forgive the long entry, but I knew before I began today’s follow-up to yesterday’s “No Mas” that I wasn’t going to get it right. Too many lessons to be learned, let alone teach in so few words.fighterleavingring

First, we could easily see this strictly from an athlete’s perspective. The crowd around the ring that night had seen Duran for years. They knew his power, speed and heart. Because of that, what he did was beyond their comprehension. To put it into perspective, imagine Michael Jordan at the free throw line in a tied Game 7 of the NBA Championship. With one second on the clock, he gives the ball to the ref and walks off the court unwilling to take the shot. Impossible? Well, that’s what the crowd witnessed that night when Duran said, “No mas.”

Or, we could also see this from Sugar Ray’s standpoint. He demanded answers. Cheated out of the glory that should come with victory, Sugar Ray took it upon himself to find out what happened. And we all know from yesterday’s entry how that ended. His peace came when he stopped trying to be rewarded for his work. (That thought deserves an entry for the fitness enthusiasts among us.) But of the two boxers that fateful night in 1980, I can relate mostly to Duran — the one who stopped striving. The guy who couldn’t go the distance. The quitter. Yes, that’s me.

Spiritually, I quit fighting my own battle when I was an eighth grader. I knew then what I know now — that no matter how good I tried to be or how hard I worked, I was at best a wretch. A no-good sinner in need of grace. Accepting defeat, accepting my smallness, accepting Jesus as my Savior…and it set me free forever.

Physically, however, I thought I quit fighting the biggest battles a long time ago when I hit my physical, personal prime of strength or ability. But in truth, I quit just a few years ago. It was then that I realized something. Our fittest, strongest, healthiest moment should serve as life’s awesome reminder of just how small and weak we really are. Sure, I press on (as I type in tears), but I quit believing the enemy’s lie that health was somehow earned. Make no mistake, our health is grace dependent.

No mas. No more. We may not step into a ring, but we do have wars raging inside our hearts — battles of our own making we need to quit. You may need to quit comparing yourself to the world. You may need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. You may need to quit social media, get your nose out of your phone and into your Bible or good book. You may need to stop procrastinating about your health, or that job application or that goal. You may need to quit trying to work your way to Heaven.

I warned you I wasn’t going to get this right, but friends, all I know is that when Jesus said it was finished, what looked like defeat was really our Lord going the distance for us. That’s why I quit. My hands are up. Are yours? The raging war is won. The victory is ours for the claiming. Freedom for the taking. Both the Prize and the Fighter is Jesus; who we win by decision.

–Jimmy Peña

“No Mas” – Part I

October 29, 2014

No more. I don’t want to fight anymore. The 1980 rematch between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran will forever be remembered by two words: No mas. For those who don’t know the story, Roberto Duran, the toughest and most relentless fighter of his era decided he was done fighting midway through the eighth round of their championship bout. And with two words he sealed his legacy.no-mas

I recently watched a documentary surrounding Sugar Ray’s quest to uncover the real reason Duran called it quits that fateful night. A stomachache — as one of many reasons given to media from Duran – could not have been – according to Leonard – the truth. So in Leonard’s mind, even though he won the fight, he didn’t beat him. He needed closure. It’s a remarkable film, but something Sugar Ray said in the last frame was a knockout.

For much of his adult life, Sugar Ray lived with alcoholism. And he acknowledged that when he finally told his story to the world, he felt free. Naturally, he related his sickness and years of isolation to how he reasoned Duran must have felt all this time. But alas, when Sugar Ray and Duran as much older men stood face-to-face, Duran stuck to the original story. And Leonard left Panama much like he left the ring in 1980 — in disappointed wonder.

But then it occurred to him — and here’s where today’s entry actually begins — that in order to have closure, he had to give Duran his own. And in one of the most poetic statements I’ve ever heard, he did just that. A statement that — to me — echoes all the way back from that eighth round when Duran threw his arms up accepting defeat, to this very day, as Sugar Ray finally drops his own. As if issuing a ten count backwards, Sugar Ray mercifully picked each other up off the canvas and said, “As far as I’m concerned, He doesn’t have to fight anymore.”

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Guys, I sure hope you check in tomorrow for “No Mas: Part II.” But I’d like to know: When it comes to your faith or your health, what do you get from Duran’s plea, “No more. I don’t want to fight anymore” – and Leonard’s eventual response, “He doesn’t have to.” I’d love to know your thoughts. See you tomorrow. Lord bless you all.

A Holy Climb

October 28, 2014

Because of the blessing of the new app, we have thousands of new readers to our daily devotions each day. What a humbling honor. So grateful you’re here. If you’re new, we have a few common mountains we climb — a few objectives as we make our way up some pretty steep hills. For some, PrayFit is a place of encouragement to begin or continue an exercise program or sensible eating plan. Others don’t need such nudging on the health side, but have come to enjoy the fact that we’re nestled in God’s word and steeped in grace.

It’s a holy climb, really. And that’s what we chat about each day as we scale this hill. As one hand digs for its stronghold, we remind each other of our need of greater health in order to live abundant lives, serving and doing. And as we secure our grip with the other, we echo the truth that no amount of health or fitness, muscle or endurance is worth anything if God isn’t behind each motive.HolyClimb

Maybe it’s easy to imagine yourself clinging to the side of this cliff with the rest of us. For whatever reason, either by neglect or something that blindsided you like an unforeseen illness, you’re stalled or hurting physically. Or perhaps your fitness is just fine, but you’re so focused on reaching the summit of health or even body image that you’re missing the purpose of it all. Well, wherever you are on this hillside, I hope and pray you spend some time with us each day. It’s my experience that the more we focus on Christ, the stronger we are to either get over hurdles or to get over ourselves.

Make it a holy climb — one you make only by reaching for His hand.

–Jimmy Peña

Quite Right

October 27, 2014

I’m typing this sentence in my best English accent, I’m afraid. And I assure you it is not without merit. See, my wife and I spent the better part of the weekend being swept away into the world of Downton Abbey; a show on PBS that depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era. It’s quite lovely.view-of-the-abbey

This may all seem a bit – oh shall we say – humorous for a Monday morning, but I confess that I have a point. It was something Lord Grantham said to his daughter about the estate he has been blessed and charged with upholding. He said, “My fortune is the work of others, who labored to build a great dynasty. Do I have the right to destroy their work? I am a custodian, my dear, not an owner. I must strive to be worthy of the task I have been set.”

Wow, indeed. Pause it. I think to type in my normal voice may be the only way for me to sincerely applaud what he said. When it comes to this wonderful life, and the gift of grace, and the body God Himself built for us to experience it, we are precisely that. Stewards. Servants. Protectors. Tenants. Recipients of a fortune. Custodians for a time. I may not have royal blood coursing through my veins, nor am I near polished enough to work the servant’s hall in Downton, but I do serve at the pleasure of our Lord and Savior. And this body – built by God and designed for me to follow Him – will get my utmost. And I will do it for His renown and not my own.

Dr. Charles Stanley says, “The body merits our respect and esteem in the same way that the most holy place of worship deserves upkeep.”

Amen, Dr. Stanley. Quite right, sir. Quite right.
Jimmy Peña

 

Life Gets The Best of Me

October 24, 2014

Someday our souls will soar. You know, I talk a lot about how our lives are all about Jesus in our hearts and not about how we look on the outside. It’s not that I don’t have anything else to say, but I just can’t exhaust that point. The comparison between the condition of our soul and the condition of our body isn’t worth the kilocalories it took to type this sentence. And yet you and I still hear something within us telling us to take care of ourselves; an urge to push away from the table a little sooner; a nudge to start being more active.LifeIsGettingTheBest

Say, ever been behind the wheel of a stalled car? You turn the key and you hear, “Click, click, click, click“, nothing. Won’t start. Well, the next time that happens, and you’re pleading with your car to “Please start, please start”, just think of your heart’s cry. That whisper you hear to take better care of yourself is coming from your driver’s seat, and it’s loud…but only your ears can hear that plea.

You know, the day our frail bodies actually stall for good, the spirit will do exactly what it was built to do. But first, our souls have work to do on earth. And this body – even if it’s just for a minute – will have to keep up.
Jimmy Peña

Tools To Help: The PrayFit App is about to get even better. As many of you know, I used to be the training expert and fitness director to the mainstream magazines, wrote some books, and was the go-to physiologist for some celebrities. Well, I am going to be taking questions via the app and answering your training, fitness and nutrition questions on the new video feature. Neat huh? VID-EEE-OOooooo. They don’t call me “One-Take-Peña” for nothin. So, hit me up. Fire away. Send me your questions to info@prayfit.com and I’ll answer them into camera. My body may not be able to train, but this brain still knows the way and my heart still wants to show the way.

PrayFit RISE: Team PrayFit is actively preparing for PrayFit RISE Los Angeles. Super early bird registration is underway and tickets are going fast. PRAYFIT-RISE-SPEAKERSBe sure to get yours soon before prices go up! And if you can’t make it to SoCal, please share the news with friends and family who may be near. I’d appreciate it.

 

He Stopped In His Tracks

October 23, 2014

“When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’” –Mark 10:47

A few of you have heard me share this story, but this seems like a good week to repeat it. A few hours before one of my recent surgeries, Loretta and I were reading together about the blind man sitting on the side of the road in Jericho. His name was Bartimaeus. When Bartimaeus heard it was Jesus who was walking by, he began to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Over and over he yelled. Despite being rebuked by others, he continued to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And it’s the reaction of Jesus that touched my heart that morning of the surgery. The bible says that when Jesus heard him shouting, He stopped walking. Some Bible versions say that He “stood still,” but I prefer the version that says  ”He stopped in His tracks.”

Oh my sweet family and friends, although I’m not blind, I was begging. I didn’t want the Lord to take another sweet step. Seconds before surgery, a nurse tried small talk, but I’m afraid she sounded more like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons. They transferred me to the operating table which – for all I knew – sat on the side of that dusty road in Jericho. When the doctor said he would see me in recovery, I slowly turned my head to the side, and as tears streamed from my shut eyes, I stole a line from Bartimaeus and fell asleep.Psalm 6619

Well, the surgery was successful. Jesus stopped in His tracks. Praise God, He stood still to hear a prayer. You know, when Bartimaeus received his sight, the very first thing he did was follow Jesus along the road. I suppose he figured the best test of his new peepers was to focus on the One who finally made them work. I plan on doing the very same thing.

–Jimmy Peña

Friends Lift

October 22, 2014

Read Mark 2:1-12

The two lived on the same block as kids. Both had strict, loving parents. Daily chores included loading hay, carrying feed and helping in the fields. Their young backs were growing strong because of it. After school and homework, they’d meet up in the streets to play childhood games till dark. They were tight-knit. Best pals.

As it turned out, the two had a mutual friend that lived down the street. Their same age, he couldn’t walk; paralyzed from birth. But that didn’t stop him from telling a good joke or razzing the game’s underdog. He was part of the crew. One of the boys.

As years passed, they grew into strong and able men with families of their own. Except, of course, for the one who was crippled. His two buddies checked on him daily though. He had a place at their table on holidays. He was the full-time ref in neighborhood competitions. They worshiped together each weekend. Indeed, after all the years, still tight.Faith inscription on a granite block

Well, when news arrived that He was in town, the two ran toward each other’s homes. In fact, they met in the middle and took turns catching their breath as they talked about their plan. Strong boys became strong men, and carrying their friend all the way across town to the One they say was able to work miracles made all those childhood chores worth it. And in fact, those chores made it possible.

The crowd around the house made it tough to get inside through traditional means. Holding the ends of the bed, the two looked at each other as if sharing the same memory; hauling hay, hoisting feed, playing games and growing up. Only one thing left for friends to do. Lift.

Most of us are familiar with the actual Biblical account of the friends who lifted their friend through the roof to be healed, but isn’t it neat to wonder what got them there? What we do know is that Jesus was pleased with the faith of those guys. And they exercised that faith with their backs. You know, I like to imagine the three of them walking home together don’t you? Who knows, maybe they played a street game for old times sake. Someone had some catching up to do.
Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: You never know who your health is for…

 

 

Can Anything Good Come Out Of This?

October 21, 2014

“‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” –John 1:46
Read: John 1

What a verse. What a story. (If you haven’t already, I urge you to read John 1 before continuing. I’ll wait.) Like I said, what a story. Oh, I’m sure Nathanael meant well. After all, so do you and I, right? We’ve asked the same. Just replace Nazareth with your hurt. Can anything good come out of your diagnosis? The unemployment? The heartache? Lord knows I’ve asked this year. Can anything good come out of this?come-and-see

Sitting in crowded waiting rooms, watching my doctor go from room to room, just begged the question. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t be as close to the Lord today, I wouldn’t have had a chance to share Christ with my neighbor, and I wouldn’t have such a hunger for God’s word. In fact, reading through the Gospels this month, I’ve come to realize more than ever that Jesus healed so many people physically in order to heal the world spiritually. Everywhere He turned, more healing, more believing.

It’s no wonder Philip answered like he did. And I like to think he had a grin on his face when he said it: “Come Nathanael. Come…and see.”

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Can anyone relate to Nathanael? Ever asked his question? Tell me how God saw you through it. I’ll wait.

P.S. Guys, if you didn’t catch yesterday’s entry, skip it and head straight to the prayer requests. Help us pray for each by name. I hope this week is already blessing you and those you love.

Your Suffering Is Your Sermon

October 20, 2014

For years, we’ve said that our health is a means of praise and that our fitness can be a witness, and it’s the truth. But if you look through the gospels, you won’t find Jesus with the fit and fiddle. You won’t find him around the strong, talking about able muscles, clear lungs or stable legs. And He certainly never wanted us to boast or show any of those things off. Nope. Where do we constantly find our Savior? With the sick. The ill. The needy, hurting, ailing, failing, and wailing. Fitness is a witness – yes – but like Max Lucado says, “Your suffering is your sermon.”Peace-in-the-Valley

This week, we’ll look back at a few times the Lord allowed me to confess it. And at the same time, I’ll ask you to share your life, your pain, your strain and the stories of those you love. Friends, our God is at much at work during our illness as He is during our mountain-top moments. Thing is, we tend to ignore Him the closer we get to the peak.
Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: How we handle our pain-free abilities and gifts of good health can serve a mighty purpose – we can’t downplay it – but where we go in times of pain and sickness says more to others about the God we serve than all of that combined. Who’s ready for this week? And as we begin this Monday, does anyone have prayer requests? Let’s go to the Lord together. List your need or simply say, “Unspoken” and I promise we’ll all pray for you.

 

Finally, The Chorus

October 17, 2014

Finally, the chorus. As a noun, the definition of chorus means, “A piece of music, especially one forming part of a larger work.” And as a verb it means, “To say the same thing at the same time.” Yes, finally, the chorus.sheet-music-34

As I’ve found my corner of the house each night to punch this keyboard, I’ve turned this song on. And each day that I’ve gotten out of bed to start the day, it’s been my theme. So finally, Friday, the chorus.

Friday is typically a recap or summary of the week, and it’s been a good one, amen? Neat to circle the wagons around a theme. The prodigal son and his turn for home – coupled with a father’s grace – is enough to fill a week like this, and it’s enough to fill the weak like me.

Carry on my wayward son, they’ll be peace when you are done.
Lay your weary head to rest.
Don’t you cry no more
.

The chorus. My life and health – YOUR life and health – beautiful music that forms part of a larger work; the song of creation. And guess what? We’re saying it at the same time. The definition of me and you is the life we live for Jesus. Faith is the key, love is the rhythm, and grace is the bridge. And if we’re listening, Jesus our Savior and Conductor is giving us our only note: “me, me, me,…Me.”

- Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Anyone still with me this week? Much love guys. Have a good weekend. Thank you for your constant prayers and faithful reading. Power, off.