Live, Eat and Sleep

September 30, 2014

There he is. He’s been up all night. If you’ve been with us the last couple of days, you know what he’s writing and to whom. He’s almost to the end of one of his letters. The rhythmic regularity of the occasional drop of water echoes off the cold walls of the prison, and the light of the lamp is now competing with the small ray coming from a window near the ceiling. Staring at the new patch of light on the floor, he finishes this sentence.

“…training it to do what it should.”

Paul knew that athletes live, eat and sleep their sport. He understood the rigors, the devotion, the sacrifices, and the quest to be the one to win. If you’re a competitive runner, he could’ve easily been describing you. That up-at-dawn discipline inside you? The dedication toward winning your next race? Paul got it.

But unlike the runner who trains for a race, we train during one. We train daily and compete daily, don’t we? So with that in mind, notice carefully his choice of words. “Training” (a process) ”it” (the body) “to do” (to act, proceed) ”what it should” (the right thing)Paul wants us to train our eyes to notice the lonely, our ears to hear the helpless, and to deny the flesh. We’re to run to Christ, run away from sin, run to those in need, and to do it all the time.

And he knew that in order for us to do that, we have to live, eat and sleep the Word of God. You know…like athletes. The kind that — like Paul — train to win.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion:  Yesterday I asked for your definition of a Christian athlete. Amazing responses. Did you catch Ashley’s? She wrote,  ”Someone who trains like a lion and lives like a lamb.” Wow. Incredible. Tomorrow we’ll finish our study, but as you may have realized, Paul isn’t talking about a concern for how the body looks, but he’s claiming the kind of spiritual discipline in his life that athletes have in their sport. Are we training our lives?

 

Like An Athlete

September 30, 2014

Where were we? Oh, yes. Under the light of the lamp; mid-letter. As we look over his shoulder, we find Paul telling his readers about the need for self-discipline. Not in order to earn salvation, but for the eternal rewards of reflecting the Lord in life.

“I discipline my body like an athlete…”

In the book of Hebrews, Paul writes, “For they (earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” Paul knew that God wants us to live holy lives, and because we fall and fail, we need to be disciplined like children. And here, what we find Paul proclaiming — and eventually carving into our hearts — is a preemptive strike upon his own. As the sports-minded or health-conscious person may appreciate, Paul uses the analogy of an athlete who perseveres through training. He allowed the athlete’s life of sacrifice to describe how he lives the sacrificial life of a Christ-follower.

At first glance, it’s an incredible parallel drawn by the most influential man the world has ever known this side of Christ. But even more amazing when you consider that the man who wrote these words would be given 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods five times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, and who would go without sleep, food and clothing; all because of his heart for churches, people and the message of Jesus.

In sports or fitness, it’s tough for an athlete to go without food or sleep, but this most amazing man of God didn’t seek to 1) look like, 2) win medals like, or 3) get adored like an athlete. No, the man we find under the lamp trained his life like one. And when he finishes this sentence, we’ll find out why.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: In one sentence, what is your definition of a Christian athlete?

The Light of the Lamp

September 29, 2014

Every once in a while we’ll begin on Monday by talking about a principle — such as grace or faith — and we’ll embrace it all week, infusing it into each day’s message of health. Welcome to such a week. But rather than circle our wagons around a singular truth or Godly characteristic, a verse will be our central theme. And while there are no ordinary verses, this was no ordinary verse. I’m even guessing some of you know it by heart.DSC00667

But whatever you do, don’t miss a day. We’re going back. We’re going back to sit with Paul in prison cells and dark corners. We’ll watch as he painfully and poetically places each word of this sentence in its place. Of the many treasures he crafted, this was worth its weight in gold. If he were writing sheet music, this was a high C. If this were his closing argument, consider this his exclamation point; a point he made to help meet the needs of the people in Corinth, and a point that meets ours.

So as we begin a week full of every kind of obligation — obligations we’ve scribbled on our to-do lists — let’s meet each day right here. Let’s share the light of the lamp as he dips his pen. In order to do that, we have to get close. Let’s gather around him. No time to be shy, squeeze in. There’s room, so don’t hesitate. He’s about to write his first words.

“I discipline…

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon from a Roman prison cell. The actual cell is pictured above. Many that have traveled to Rome have taken this picture. I actually can’t describe my thoughts. It was God’s will that what Paul wrote in this room would reach our hearts. Unfathomable. Let’s honor Paul’s work and read his letters. It may mean less TV, a shorter workout or turning off social media. But God speaks to us through His Word.

He’s Strong, I’m Weak

September 26, 2014

“For by grace you have been saved and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
–Ephesians 2:8-9

This pursuit of health. For you, maybe it’s another day in the gym, looking at that same row of dumbbells. Or maybe it’s walking another lap around the familiar track with the expected turns. Maybe you’re in rehab following surgery or perhaps you’ve been hit with an unexpected illness. In any case, picking up the weight or the pace are the keys to change, improvement, maintenance or recovery. More, again. Again, some more. You huff and puff…(rough). Folks, aren’t we glad Heaven doesn’t require the same?

Let’s face it, we’re just not strong enough, fast enough, good enough. Fortunately, Jesus lifted our heaviest burden and walked the steepest hill. We can stop fighting a fight He’s already won. In fact, the next time you’re struggling to lift yesterday’s dumbbell with a body designed to weaken, or you’re trying to keep your previous pace with steadily slowing legs, take a second and smile. Go ahead. Just grin and shake your head. Let it remind you of just how small and weak you are, and just how big and able He is. I admit, whenever I do that, I seem to be a little stronger and a little bit faster. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I realize He’s only put me in charge of something that requires my effort.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Doesn’t Friday feel like the right time to realize our smallness? The deep sigh I just gave as I typed that sentence says it all for me. I sure do thank you for your faithful reading, your prayers for me and for each other, for the testimonies and stories you share each week, and for the joy you bring me each day. I thank the good Lord for you each night and day. Hope you have a good weekend. Please pray for me as I prepare for my Pepperdine speech on Tuesday. Keep growing in grace. – JP

The Gospel of Peace

September 25, 2014

“..and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” –Ephesians 6:15

We’ve all been fitted for shoes at one time or another, and if you’re flat-footed like me, you know immediately whether a shoe is gonna work or not. As kids, it was important for them to measure our feet with that little foot-measuring thing, remember? But it wasn’t until your mom or dad found your big toe and you walked around a little that you and everyone else had a peace about them. A peace? Well…walk with me.

Consider the athlete. Most major sports — from baseball, basketball to football — have shoes that fit the game. It’s simple, right? The athlete needs to be sure-footed for the surface. Sure-footed. At peace. Think of a golfer swinging a club on slick wet grass or a sprinter getting into the blocks. There’s a peace in knowing you’re firmly planted.

Consider Paul. When he described the full armor of God, he didn’t forget the feet. In Biblical times, Roman sandals had thick spikes on the soles to ensure that the warrior was grounded, anchored, and less likely to slip. It’s no wonder Paul urged for our feet to be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Imagine. Athletes wear the shoe that best meets the needs of their sport. Ancient warriors dressed for battle. It’s neat to consider God fitting His children – His athletes and warriors – to be sure-footed. And for every believer, one shoe fits. The gospel of peace. (Peace from head to big toe.)

–Jimmy Peña

PrayFit @ Pepperdine:
Hey guys, I begin a lecture series next week at Pepperdine University. CS_Pepperdine-UniversityI covet your prayers as I fellowship with faculty and staff. So exciting and humbling to pull back the curtain and look at health through the Gospels’ lens.

Little Is Much

September 24, 2014

I was in maybe the first or second grade, and Mom had given me a dollar to go shopping for Daddy at our school’s make-shift Christmas store. I remember walking the narrow aisles, squeezing the life out of that dollar like it was something really precious. And I suppose it was, because it represented my chance to give something to Dad. And then…I saw it.

I knew it right away. I had no idea if I had enough to cover the cost, but it didn’t matter. Even back then I was sentimental, and that little ceramic…whatever-it-was…was cool, and it had a message written on it. So with one tiny hand gripping the gift and the other my dollar, I handed both to the lady at the counter.

I’m smiling as I type, because aren’t we glad God sees the heart? I didn’t know what I was giving him, but Dad knew where it was coming from. In fact, that dollar’s gift is still in his office, along with his other precious memories being kept behind glass. Folks, our life is a chance to give all we have, and I like to think it warms God’s heart when we do. Of course, on our own, we don’t have what it takes, but God does. There’s an old gospel hymn that says, “Little is much if God is in it.” And when it comes to our days, He can take our little and make it much. I say we squeeze the life out of our little lives, as if it’s a chance to give something back to Dad.

–Jimmy Peña

P.S.What was the present? Here it is. littleismuchWell, I didn’t know it then, but apparently it was an office paperweight of all things. Hey, what did I know? I was like five years old! I was just thanking my Pop for not smoking, and I meant it. And it meant a lot to him.

For Discussion: What little gift do you want to hand the Lord? Looking back, even that dollar was a gift. I didn’t earn it and I certainly didn’t have it on my own. But I turned my gift into one. (Chew on that sentence for a second.) Is God waiting for you to hand something over? These days Loretta and I are leaning on God’s grace and wisdom as PrayFit is now a non-profit organization, needing Him to make much out of something little. But just like when I was a kid, we have to let go and give Him all we have. What about you?

ParadigmShift

 

Gumption

September 23, 2014

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”
—1 Corinthians 9:26

I’m definitely old-fashioned, but who reading this remembers tryouts? I thought of it when I asked, “Who won?” to a young boy and his mom as they came back from his soccer game. His mom replied, “Oh, we don’t keep score. In this league, we don’t keep score and everybody plays.” Hmm. I tried to hide my confusion, but had she replied in Yiddish it would have made just as much sense.kid-baseball-players1

You know, if Paul were in sports, I think he would have enjoyed keeping score. The way he talked of disciplining his body like an athlete as a metaphor of life, or how passionately he wrote of running the race with endurance; something tells me, Paul would have understood the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Of course, Paul would be the first person to teach us of grace and forgiveness, but a record of wrongs is not the issue at stake (thankfully). So the issue is more about the kind of fight we have in us for the faith, as well as for the body. Like Paul, it’s time to follow our God-given, God-driven, Godly-living instincts.

Truth be told, if our health was required for Heaven, well, we’d be in bad shape. And if God kept score on our day’s losses, we’d lose outright every time. But it’s because of those things that we might as well toughen up. Who knows how effective we could be for the kingdom if we exercised a little more Godly gumption. Not in order to win favor, but because we have favor.

Oh, and I have to report, as my neighbor disappeared into her home, the little boy stuck his head out the front door, put his hand up to the side of his mouth as if to tell me a secret from across the street: “We won 11 to nothin’!” he yelled with a whisper. Atta boy, I thought. Gumption. He’s a carrier. And so are you.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion:

Any prayer requests? What are you facing today or this week that you need Godly gumption to face? If I may, I have a prayer request, but I’m listing it as “unknown” so please lift me up. Let’s play. Have a good day dear friends.

Thorn Bushes and Dog Leashes

September 22, 2014

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.–1 Chronicles 16:11

Amidst my usual helping of chaotic and unpredictable mornings, there is one constant in the day’s beginning: Josey. Josey is our chocolate Labrador…our very strong and excited chocolate lab. The apple of my eye. Blink blink.JoseyThornBushes

Each morning Josey acts as if she hasn’t seen me in weeks. “Dad! It’s me, dad! I love you! I missed you!” (If only I started my days like that). And after our reunion, she heads to the door. Wait, let me rephrase, she attacks the door. “Okay Josey, okay!” I put her chain on, and we begin our morning adventure; she knows exactly where she wants to explore. First, she looks for the rabbits, then the squirrels, then the birds. So much to do! But it’s interesting that once we get outside, it’s as if I’m not even there. The one who opens all her doors, the one she couldn’t get enough of, was now an invisible bystander. Can anyone relate to her behavior?

Well, getting caught in some bushes today was not part of her plan. Tangled inside a bush on a steep hill, her joy turned to panic. And for the first time since emerging outside, she looked up at her master (the one who never lets go of the leash). Now, from my vantage point, all she had to do was listen to me, back up a few steps, and she’d be as free as the very bird that got her there in the first place.

Packaged in the unexpected, sometimes God speaks to us with thorn bushes and dog leashes.

–Jimmy Peña

For Discussion:
“Nothing Lukewarm”… 
Hey everyone, starting the week I’m reading once again Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” and man, it’s a tough read. A rough read. Anyone gone through it? Whew. I tell ya, I don’t want to be lukewarm, or give God my leftovers, or do anything with my life or my health or PrayFit to be a show for others. But were it not for the grace of God, I would be in a heap, because I AM lukewarm, I DO give God my leftovers and I do things with my life, my health and PrayFit to impress people. What a convicting read (again). Pride is such a battle.
Chan says, “Any attention we receive belongs to God” and Dr. Stanley says, “God will never direct us to be prideful or arrogant.” (Even in our industry. There are no exceptions. I’ve said it before, but we can’t plan or train for vanity and then humbly accept praise for it (nor can we be proud of our humility on the other hand.) What a battle, huh? Hard work never justifies pride. And if we’re lukewarm with our lives, Jesus spits it out. (Rev. 3:16) Ugh, tough. Rough. (God, help us love you, then help us love others, then help us deny ourselves. And thank you for your grace because we – I – can’t get it right.) Oh were it not for grace. – JP

Win Ugly

September 19, 2014

Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Is there a more inspiring verse for us during adversity week? Now, does that verse mean our job situation will be transformed? Does it mean our illness will disappear or that our health will improve? No, not necessarily. But remember, it didn’t always end well for Biblical characters who were called to His purpose. Paul was likely beheaded and most of the disciples were martyred. But what that verse means for us is that God is at work. In the midst of our suffering, His priorities make our trials not only more sustainable, but worth the hurt.

Charles Stanley says, “Spiritual men and women emerge from adversity excited about what God had taught them. From God’s perspective, our spiritual growth is more important than our comfort or pleasure.

Earlier this week, Habakkuk provided us a response to our own circumstances when he said, “The Lord GOD is my strength…(Hab. 3:18). If we’ve ever wondered if one can worship while being attacked, think Habakkuk.

Then sweet David. So many of you related to his story this week from your comments. During his darkest days he gave God his highest praise and provided us a song to sing during ours. How many of us are still humming that tune in the cave today? “We exaaaaaaaalt Thee. We exaaaaaaalt Thee. We exalt Thee……”

And yesterday, Jacob; tested physically to grow spiritually, and he held on until he got his blessing. If God gave me a new name, I want it to be, “He got up.” The mere idea fires my belly.

Friends, let me finish the week the way I began it. I can’t sugarcoat it. As believers we know we win, but adversity for the believer often means we win ugly. We need to remind ourselves of the Biblical forerunners in their strife. May we emerge from ours by following their lead; worshipping, with a limp, and a song.
Jimmy Peña

Lord bless you guys. Much love from me. Have a good weekend. Thanks for being here each day…

GIVE TO PRAYFIT MINISTRIES:
Well my friends, I mentioned it last week and it’s official. We are a non-profit organization. I am so humbled and excited about what God is doing and what He will do. PrayFit MinistriesGuys, it’s through your giving that all of it will be made possible. Having a heart for what we’ve done over the last 6 years, perhaps you’d love to be a part of sponsoring the conference or anything we’re doing at PrayFit on a daily basis. If so, please click the GIVE button on the home page. You can make a one-time donation of any amount or perhaps become a monthly sponsor of any amount. Nothing is too big or too small, and we are grateful to partner with you. May all we do together bring glory the Lord.

He Held On

September 18, 2014

He held on. Wouldn’t let go. Not until he got his blessing. Jacob went through something that forever changed how he related to God. The Lord weakened him physically to strengthen him spiritually. And his story finds its way into our week of adversity.

Expecting the worst from his brother Esau, Jacob not only prepared practically (sending Esau gifts ahead of his arrival) but he talked to God. A lot. Then one night the Bible says he wrestled with a mysterious man. As the fight continued, the man touched and dislocated Jacob’s hip. And that was enough to convince Jacob that this was no ordinary man, but in fact he saw God (v.30) so he held on, refusing to let go until he received his blessing.

Well, after fight night, battle-tested and blessed, Jacob had two new things: A limp and a name.

The limp is significant to me personally, because Jacob knew that in his new physical state, he would never be able to defend himself against Esau. He had to rely on God alone to fight his battles. Not sure about you, but I know more than ever that I’m weaker than I think. Oh, I know that goes against what the fitness world boasts, but like Jacob, even Paul understood that we rely more on God when we embrace our smallness. What did he say? “I am content in my weakness…for when I’m weak, I’m strong.” But I really didn’t understand that verse until I was humbled. But gracefully, I feel stronger in my weakness than I ever felt in my strength.

And as far as Jacob’s new name, well, he went from “heel catcher, Jacob” to “he who struggles with God, Israel.”  Indeed, there’s no better way to walk through life than with a limp that says you’ve been with God Himself.
-Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Are you wrestling? How could your present adversity help you lean more on God? Are you? What has adversity taught you about God and His grace?