P90X as a spiritual discipline

p90x as a spiritual discipline

For the past few months I’ve been relearning, in a fresh way, a very important reality about myself and about sin.

I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But sin still dwells in my unredeemed body (Romans 7:18-23).

Those two truths, mixed with the entire book of 1 John have convinced me that much of what I deal with in terms of “struggles with sin” have to do with my own failure to think according to truth.

The battle is in the realm of the mind

Paul makes a point in Romans chapter 7, to pinpoint the “dwelling place” of sin and the “dwelling place” of victory over it through Christ.

  • The law of God operates in the realm of the mind (Romans 7:22).
  • The law of sin and death operates in the realm of the body (Romans 7:23).

That means that the way I THINK about myself is vitally important.

I have to think of myself according to what God says about me… not according to how I think about me, or how I feel, or what I’ve been told by well-meaning-but-sadly-ignorant Bible teachers who insist that I’m a “sinner, saved by grace.” (I know what they mean, but I’m coming to believe the phrase is counterproductive). Here are some examples:

  • I don’t typically see myself as a new creation… I see myself as a sinner.
  • As a result I don’t typically see myself as “dead” to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11).

I’m playing a mental trick on myself, convincing myself that I’m not who I truly am (who GOD says I am). I think on, and therefore live out the identity of “sinner” (despite the fact that I’m saved by grace).

What I need is a renewal of the mind, a change of understanding, a new way of thinking about myself. I need to see me the way God sees me and learn to live that identity out in real life.

What’s all that got to do with P90X?

My wife, oldest daughter, and I began the infamous P90X workout yesterday.

If you don’t know what it is… it’s crazy. I still can’t believe I agreed to this…

It’s a 90-day, intense, hour to hour and a half a day exercise program and diet that is supposed to get you totally ripped within 90 days.

We aren’t necessarily wanting the “totally ripped” part… we just want to finish what we started a few years ago so that we can be the best stewards of our health and bodies that we can be.

When the Apostle Paul was describing the lengths he was willing to go to in order to share and spread the gospel message, he used the need for bodily discipline as an example. He said, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

I don’t know exactly what bodily struggles Paul was concerned about, but I am enlightened by what he’s saying. He knew that the body can affect the soul and spirit, therefore the body must be handled in a disciplined manner in order for us to live rightly for the sake of the LORD.

That’s where P90X comes in.

Though I’m wanting to get my body in shape, I’m also finding another use for the exercise program that is proving to be helpful (so far). Here’s how I’m thinking on it…

  • Since the area where sin dwells is in my physical body (Romans 7:18-23), I’m trying to make the workout into a “subjection” of my body (where sin dwells) to my will (which is controlled by the Holy Spirit).
  • I’m using the workout to remind myself that the power of the Spirit who lives in me, is ENOUGH to help me not only overcome my natural resistance to the pain of a strenuous workout, but is also ENOUGH to enable me to overcome the sin that dwells within my unredeemed body.

It may sound hokey, but it’s helpful to me. I’ll let you know how it goes…

How does this idea strike you?

Blog Casserole – 08/23/2013


Blog Casserole!

The best or worst or slightly interesting of the web over the last week (from my humble perspective)
 
  • It was truly a revolutionary thing to me when years back I discovered that God actually has a name, not just a title… and it’s not “Jehovah.” It’s Yahweh. For me, it has become very important to think about, speak, and use the name of Yahweh (apologies to those Jews who don’t do so).  It’s made my relationship with Him more personal and “real,” if you will. Anyway… I found these thoughts on the name of Yahweh very helpful.
  • And if you’d like to worship Yahweh right now… here’s a helpful and fun video…
  • In Christian circles we talk about “accountability” as part of what makes up  true community, and we are right to do so. But there is an interesting aspect of accountability that has to do with how the one being held accountable can make those holding him accountable seem like people of questionable integrity. I’d never thought of it this way before.

Why you will succeed when others fail

why you will succeed

(this is a follow-up post to the previous one “What is success?“)

If you are going to succeed in what God has called you to do in this life, it will be because:

  • You accept the grace of God (Titus 2:11).
  • You are humble (James 4:6).
  • You won’t be fooled into exchanging the glory of God for lesser things (Romans 1:22-23).
  • You put away false gods, fear the LORD, and serve him in faithfulness and humility (Joshua 24:14).
  • You abandon your own will to that of the Father (Matthew 6:10).
  • In view of God’s mercy, you present yourself as a living sacrifice for His use (Romans 12:1).
  • You crucify your fleshly desires, emotions, and habits (Galatians 5:24).
  • You follow His leading, not your own heart (Matthew 16:24).
  • You eagerly look for and engage in the good works God has appointed for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).
  • You rely daily on the fact that you are already more than a conqueror through Christ (Romans 8:37).
  • You trust Jesus to live powerfully in you to accomplish His own will in your present life (Galatians 2:20).
  • Instead of being overcome by evil, you overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
  • You refuse to be among those who shrink back in the face of hardship or evil (Hebrews 10:39).
  • When you are mistreated, you entrust yourself to God, who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).
  • You keep your eyes fixed on what is to come (1 Peter 1:4).

What would you add to the list?

What is success?

what is success?

It could be argued that success is defined by its context.

For example, success in a military profession will look very different than success in motherhood.

I get that… there are definitely ways that looking at success through that sort of segmentation is helpful. But I want to step back and look at a bigger picture.

I believe we all feel an urge to divide our lives into compartments…. boxes if you will. We do it for a variety of reasons. It’s easier to stay organized mentally when you think of life in smaller chunks. Things don’t feel so out of control or hectic when you give yourself permission to address one “area” at a time. Depending on who you are, how you were raised, the priorities you’ve developed throughout your life, it will look something like this…

lifeboxes

That approach to life is where we get the idea that success looks different in different contexts. Again, I get that.

But I want to suggest that thinking of life that way leads to a serious problem.

We stop thinking of ourselves as integrated beings, as a whole with many facets. We forget that what goes on in one of those “areas” necessarily relates to and impacts the others.

That’s why we have…

  • politicians who insist that their private life is entirely unrelated to their public life.
  • pastors who try to resume ministry immediately after a personal disgrace is exposed.
  • dads or moms who are a top producers at work but are failing miserably at home.

In reality, the box illustration looks like this…

life box

Everything touches everything. All aspects of life have an affect on the others. It’s like the mixture of ingredients in your favorite recipe. If one were missing, the recipe would not turn out the same. Such is life.

So what is success in life?

With all that in the backdrop, success becomes less about individual achievements in particular spheres, and more about the overall impact or tone of a person’s life. We can’t legitimately say someone who has died was a “great man” if his family was in shambles. We can’t say his life was inspirational if he was known to have had mistresses on the side. We can surely acknowledge the good things that come from a person’s life even if other aspects of their character are questionable. But we can’t rightly make a sweeping general statement that they were “good” or “successful.”

By that criteria none of us can truly be called by those titles, can we?

We all have areas of weakness, frailty, and outright sin that are in the process of reclamation. Each one of us is in need of reintegration.

That means that success in life can’t come from within us (contrary to popular belief). We don’t have the power or capacity to pull off such an audacious goal.

We need help… badly.

Thankfully, help is available.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.Titus 2:11-14

The grace of God has appeared. His help is available. The things that plague us, that hold us back, that keep us from attaining success in life are able to be conquered by His grace (meaning, with His help).

Through God’s grace we can:

  • renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.
  • live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life.
  • wait for the appearing of our Savior, Jesus.
  • do good works that truly matter.

THAT is success in life.

It is an integrated, overcoming kind of success that addresses our deepest needs, not just our temporal wants.

It’s a liberating success, setting us free from our inherent limitations of sin and selfishness.

It’s a success that makes our lives into conduits of God’s grace so we are able to eternally, positively impact others.

It is a success entirely dependent, moment by moment, on the living person of Jesus Christ who will one day return to perfect what He has begun.

It is a success that enables us to cease striving for menial ambitions and instead view every opportunity in light of the greater purpose He has for us.

NEXT: Why you will succeed when others fail

Is it O.K. to be angry at God?

angry at God

In a word…

NO.

Here’s why:

The only reasons I can think of that we humans get angry are…

  1. when something wrong occurs (we call this righteous indignation)
  2. when we believe something is not fair
  3. when we are hurt
  4. when we are frustrated or disappointed

Now let’s put God in the middle of each of those types of situations:

1. Can we LEGITIMATELY have righteous indignation toward God?

Only if we are more righteous than He is… which is impossible. To be angry with God because we think He did something wrong is like a cockroach telling a human being how to carry out his life. Silly, I know – but that’s what it is to fault God in any way.

2. Can we LEGITIMATELY be angry with God because we think He’s not being fair?

Only if we know how to distribute equity in the situation better than He does… which is also impossible. God knows every nuance and in and out of every circumstance. In fact, He is the one who has orchestrated it to be what it is. Sure, sinful people get into the mix and bring things about, but do you think God didn’t see that coming? Do you think they acted entirely independent of His oversight? Nope. He’s in total control. To think that God is unfair is to think that the sky is green, not blue.

3. Can we LEGITIMATELY be angry at God because we’ve been hurt?

Only if He has promised us that life will be filled with pleasure and not pain. But He’s never promised that. In fact, He’s often warned us that the life of a Christ-follower is filled with an additional kind of pain that comes from being faithful to Him (John 16:33). Us being hurt is not the real issue we should be concerned about. What God is doing THROUGH our hurt is. We’d be willing to endure any amount of pain for the benefit of those closest to us (spouse, children, etc.). Why don’t we expect the same sort of things will be required if we truly love God?

4. Can we LEGITIMATELY be angry with God because of a frustrating or disappointing situation?

Frustration reveals that we are not getting the results that we are wanting because something is getting in the way. THAT reveals a problem in our thinking. God’s will in every matter is what matters, not ours (Matthew 6:33). To become angry at God because things are not going OUR way is equal to telling your employer that you are angry with them because they did not put into places the policies that YOU thought were best. It’s outside your jurisdiction, you don’t get a say in such things. So drop your anger. d He’s working those things for our good. Can you accomplish that?

The operative word in all of these scenarios is “LEGITIMATELY.” We cannot legitimately be angry at God.

That doesn’t mean we don’t or won’t become angry at Him… but it does mean that we’re doing so without reason or cause. Which is sin.

Why is it not O.K. to be angry at God?

He is King.

He is Sovereign.

He is LORD.

He is the Ruler of our lives.

He has created us for His good purposes (not ours).

We, like Jesus, are to pray for His will to be done in our lives and to willingly (and joyfully) submit our lives to it.

There is joy there. There is peace there. There is comfort there. There is confidence there. There is intimacy with Him there.

Anger at God has no place in a life of submission to Him.

Train yourself to see what others miss

see what others missSeeing what others miss is natural for some people.

seth

the Seth-ster himself!

Take Seth Godin for example. He is a business guy who seems to be very adept at noticing strange or significant things that others either overlook or are unwilling to talk about. Jesus was the same way (only better at it).

In fact, almost every visionary, inventor, major scientist, and or leader has been able to see things that others don’t. It doesn’t matter if they are a positive example (Nelson Mandela) or a negative one (Adolph Hitler). They see opportunities, needs, causes, weaknesses, wrongs, situations, etc. through eyes that seek a way to capitalize on them – for good or bad.

But it’s a skill that can be learned too…

I believe that a person can and should train themselves so the skill of noticing the typically unnoticed is developed over time. And it’s necessary. Each of us has a unique mix of gifts, skills, and abilities that the LORD wants to use to make a positive difference in the world, so that He receives glory for it. We owe it to Him, ourselves, and the world to develop those things the best we can and see great things happen in the process.

Becoming adept at seeing the unseen is nothing more than developing keen skills of observation, like the fictional Sherlock Holmes in a way… so that you are able to pick up on things needing fixed, adjusted, corrected, or investigated more thoroughly. It’s those kinds of observations that can make a huge difference for how you view the world and how you operate in it.

But it’s also about knowing how to interpret the things you see.

  • What are they saying, showing, or meaning for the people around them?
  • What impact do they have on the present and the future?
  • What would changes to them provide or prohibit?
  • How can they be improved to maximize their benefits?

When you learn to do this consistently you’ll begin to see a handful of powerful results.

  1. You’ll begin to find your place in the world (maybe).
  2. You’ll find problems to fix or solve.
  3. You’ll find beautiful, wonderful things about life you didn’t know were there (and therefore more reason to give God praise).
  4. You’ll begin to differentiate yourself from your competition as you act on what you see.
  5. You’ll learn to serve customers, clients, friends, and family better.

How to learn to see

I’ve experimented with this concept many times in my life… and have picked up a few tips that I’d like to pass on. These are things that have proven helpful to me as I’ve tried to develop my skills in observation and comprehension.

1. Take time to look

take time to lookNoticing things takes time… at least at first. Consider your daily commute or a drive you make quite often. Can you tell me the color of the 3rd building you see? What about the type of font used on the sign at the local grocery store? These things may sound insignificant, and may be – but they illustrate how little we truly stop to look around us.

One reason you don’t notice things on that drive is because you’re moving too fast. If you were to walk the same route, you’d have time to see things you normally miss entirely. That’ my problem.. I’m typically in such a mad dash to get something done that I pass right by things in the process.

Over the years I have tried to slow down, at least in my mind. I seek to stop for a few seconds (come on, you CAN afford a few seconds) to assess what it is that I’m seeing. I notice colors, sounds, smells, shapes, textures. It’s mind blowing when you begin to realize all the amazing things that you pass by every day.

2. Take time to think

take time to thinkOnce you’ve noticed something, start to analyze it. Ask yourself these types of questions:

  • Does this work?
  • Is it well-built?
  • Did the designer think it through well?
  • What is wrong with it?
  • How could it be better?
  • Is there an injustice happening here?
  • Is there a need that could be/should be met here?
  • Is it enjoyable? What could make it more so?
  • Is there a lie or type of misinformation needing to be corrected?
  • Is there a beauty that needs to be made much of?

You get the point… stop accepting what is AS what must be and try to imagine what might be. How could your particular insights into the thing or situation make it better?

A silly example

The following picture illustrates one of these “think about it” moments for me. It’s one I’ve had on my mind for a long time.

It’s not something I feel compelled to do anything about, but it does give me a lot to think about in my business and other endeavors when it comes to the issue of customer service.

not customer service

When I think about this issue I ask these sorts of questions:

Q: Why do businesses insist on buying sandpaper toilet paper?
A: Cost, most likely. Definitely NOT comfort.

Q: Who does that primarily benefit?
A: The company. Of course it may impact the prices the company charges, but not as much as a soft roll of toilet paper!

Q: Is the company showing me that they really care about customer service, or are they showing me that they really care about the bottom line? (no pun intended there).
A: The bottom line is the main issue.

And here comes the really important question for me…

Is there anything I’m currently doing in my business that is cheaper, but not best for my customer.

BINGO! I’ve gleaned the benefit of good observation. I’ve seen something that others miss and it’s going to help me differentiate myself from everyone else out there who is trying to do the same work I am.

And I believe in the end it’s going to help me win and keep clients and be observant and proactive in my parenting and marriage.

Training myself to see what others miss is vital… and a skill I’m still honing day after day.

What keeps you from noticing things that others miss? Share your thoughts below!

Eloquence is a stewardship required of all people

ELOQUENCE

Photo source http://www.iwm.org.uk/ [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I love to read biography, and one of my favorites was the series, “The Last Lion” about the life of Winston Churchill, arguably one of the most eloquent and persuasive speakers of the 20th century. Reading some of his speeches is nothing less than inspiring, especially when you realize the situation he was speaking into.

I’ve been a public speaker for the better part of 20 years and have NEVER considered myself eloquent in the least. I’m pretty down to earth, say it like it is. But reading this morning in Pascal’s “Pensees”, the idea of eloquence took on a new meaning for me… this is #16 in his collection of thoughts…

Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a way—(1) that those to whom we speak may listen to them without pain and with pleasure; (2) that they feel themselves interested, so that self-love leads them more willingly to reflection upon it.

It consists, then, in a correspondence which we seek to establish between the head and the heart of those to whom we speak on the one hand, and, on the other, between the thoughts and the expressions which we employ. This assumes that we have studied well the heart of man so as to know all its powers, and then to find the just proportions of the discourse which we wish to adapt to them. We must put ourselves in the place of those who are to hear us, and make trial on our own heart of the turn which we give to our discourse in order to see whether one is made for the other, and whether we can assure ourselves that the hearer will be, as it were, forced to surrender. We ought to restrict ourselves, so far as possible, to the simple and natural, and not to magnify that which is little, or belittle that which is great. It is not enough that a thing be beautiful; it must be suitable to the subject, and there must be in it nothing of excess or defect.

I am convicted. How much of my own speaking and preparation to make presentations has been done with this kind of intentional effort in mind?

Some of the speaking I’ve done has hit on some of these ideas… but I fear far too much of it was less than what it should have been.

Notice some of his main points:

  • listeners should actually ENJOY the presentation.
  • listeners should actually BE INTERESTED in the presentation.
  • listeners’ heads and hearts should be ENGAGED with our thoughts and expressions.
  • the one presenting needs to have STUDIED WELL the heart of man.
  • the one presenting must put themselves into the place of the listeners to evaluate if his presentation “fits” them and will bring them to “surrender” to our appeal.
  • the presenter should include only what is suitable for the subject, nothing more and nothing less.

As I read these words I come to realize that as human beings who are charged with making a God-honoring and God-appointed difference in the world, we have the responsibility to move others to action along with us… and my thinking about what eloquence is changes.

I find myself realizing that eloquence is not a talent given to a few, it is a stewardship given to all.

We Christians ARE to persuade others…

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. – 2 Corinthians 5:11

We are to persuade them about…

  • their need for forgiveness and relationship with God.
  • their need to make the most of the life God has given them.
  • their need to live in a way that brings glory to God.

and many other things.

I’m going to be thinking more about this issue of eloquence, and doing what I can to improve my skill in it. I want my communication to be beneficial, practical, a tool that meets people right where they are and leads them someplace better.

I can get better in WHAT I say and HOW I say it. I’m sure that’s true for my writing as well.

What are your thoughts about eloquence being a stewardship that we all share?

Self-reliance is self-deception

your own bootstraps

SELF RELIANCE IS SELF DECEPTION

I grew up being taught (at least by example) the idea of self-reliance. I have a Mom and Dad who are hard working, blue-collar, self-made people in many ways. I have learned a ton from their great example.

So please understand right here at the outset… I’m all for the “kick yourself in the behind and get it done” sort of initiative that it takes to succeed in life or business. It even follows along the line of biblical teaching in some ways.

Too often I have deceived myself into buying all the lines the world has tried to feed me…

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

“You can be whatever you want to be in life.”

“The only thing holding you back, is you.”

“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

While I understand the motive behind all of these kinds of statements, there is a fundamental flaw in all of them.

THEY LEAVE GOD ENTIRELY OUT OF THE PICTURE.

and that is the most tragic and fatal error that a person could make.

I have come to see that self-reliance is a lie.

There is very little in this life that I can truly be entirely self-reliant about. That’s because in the end, I need God’s guidance, help, and empowerment to carry out anything that I would consider worthwhile.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5

That is a FOUNDATIONAL MINDSET that I have to get in place BEFORE I try to work on anything with the kind of diligence my parents modeled to me. If I don’t get that way of thinking in place first, I will wear myself out with efforts to accomplish, achieve, etc. and be producing NOTHING of eternal significance.

It’s like math (and I really, REALLY dislike math)…

math mistake

When I was in Jr. High and High School I truly disliked math. I became unglued when a mistake I made at the very beginning of a problem caused me to miss the answer entirely. I didn’t like it (and still don’t) but that’s the nature of how math works.

The same is true of how you and I think of self-reliance.

If I buy what our culture tells us and believe that my success is entirely up to me, I’ve missed something at the very beginning of the equation… and it is something VITAL to getting to the right outcome. I’ve missed God, the ARCHITECT and GUIDE of my life. I have no hope of EVER getting to the right results (in life or business or parenting or whatever) if I leave Him out of the equation. To stick with the math analogy, my answer will always, Always, ALWAYS be wrong.

How to break this kind of self-deception

1. Identify the lies you’ve been believing (the list from above may be a good start).

2. Tweak them until they come into line with the truth of what God has revealed about your participation in His plans.

Here are some examples:

“If it is to be, it is up to God and me.”

“You can do anything God equips and calls you to do.”

“You can be whatever God wants you to be in life.”

“The only thing holding you back, is your inability to trust God and His plan.”

“I know God can, I know God can, I know God can…”

“What the LORD can conceive HE can achieve.”

3. Learn to rely on Him more and more each day.

4. Set your mind to discover and immerse yourself in HIS plans for your life. He’s revealed the majority of what you need to know in His word.

Get to work… knowing that His calling IS His enabling.

Tell me how you’ve deceived yourself over the years and how you’ve learned to overcome it

Rebooting this blog

rebootIt’s time to reboot this blog…

The first post I wrote on this blog is dated 07/24/2007. I actually posted 5 times that day (What was I thinking?). That last one even hit on some themes I’ve been writing about recently. Here I am, almost 6 years and 643 posts later, re-thinking this blog.

I’ve been considering a reboot ever since I left the pastorate. I’m just in a different place in life now, so my mind and heart are bouncing off of different things… and I’m contemplating and processing things I’ve never considered before as a result. But in the end, the name of the blog still echoes what is in my heart for it: I want this to be a journal of someone who is striving to be a passionate follower of Christ.

But since I am in a different place in life, a reboot still feels in order. I’m finding myself wanting to write about new and different things than I ever have before (business, for instance… and how it relates to being a passionate follower of Christ). So… here are what I see as my overview topics from this point forward:

  • Business, making money, and entrepreneurship – from a crazy-for-Christ perspective.
  • Writing… I’m working on a novel right now and have already done some non-fiction works. I’m learning a lot and will probably want to share it here.
  • Spiritual life and vitality on a personal level (you and me) and corporate (us) level.
  • Cultural trends and popular mindsets and how they impact discipleship.
  • The paths the LORD is walking me down personally… kind of like a journal :).
  • And I’ll continue to do my weekly blog casserole… it’s just plain old fun to do!

If nothing else, this reboot will probably help me look at my writing here from a fresh perspective… and I can use that for sure.

What sort of suggestions do YOU have for this blog?

Rethinking church #8 – Difficulties needing solutions

difficulties needing solutions rethinking church

I’m the first to admit that doing church in a smaller, more intentional way brings with it a handful of very difficult problems. Some of the ones that I can think of are..

  • How large of a group is too big to foster genuine community?
  • When the church gets too big, what happens then? Split the group? Just let it grow?
  • What about the kids? If they are allowed to be a part of the group every meeting then some adults may not share freely. If they are not allowed to be in the group then they may not be included in the life of the church.
  • How much structure/order is beneficial? How much is too much?
  • Where does prayerful planning come in? Where should the Spirit be the only direction?
  • Are sermons forever gone for the sake of participation/discussion? Or is there a place for a “normal” type of teaching/sermon?
  • At what point do our efforts at being less traditional become traditional (because it’s what we traditionally do after a while)?
  • What role DO the leaders play?
  • How does the group remain grounded in the truth (translation: none of us wants to become a cultic type group of wierdos)?

I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas…