Fit.Church Weekends

God's Arms Around Us

Pastor Ken is sharing that we are carried in the arms of God. 

God supports us. 

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! 
For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19

How many times have we as overeating individuals awoken to start a new day, and felt defeated before we ever put our feet on the floor. I have come to realize that I will never be perfect in my living out perfect health. It seems like every single day I am tempted to eat something I should not, and some days I do. 

But in looking at the above passage of clearly, we must realize that our God is Lord of the weak, the depressed and even the down and out. I must tell you that as someone who was born and raised in the United States I was raised to be strong and not show weakness. But read the passage above again, “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” We are not independent beings who stand on our own. We are dependent beings who depend upon our God.

Becoming Deep

Pastor Ken is sharing from Psalm 1 encouraging us to become rooted in God's Word. 

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:1-3

Notice we are encouraged to not walk out the advice offered by the wicked, nor stand around with the sinner, nor sit in participation with the mockers. Whether walking, standing or sitting we are not to do it in the company of evil. Now, we dwell in a fallen world, and while we will rub shoulders with a fallen world, we are not to grow comfortable in it. 

So how do we become like those trees in the Psalms? We all desire prosperity, and this Psalm points out that this means not doing what the wicked do; not joining in when people do wrong, and not standing with people as they sin. This Psalm is pretty clear - you and I get to make decisions every day that either leads us to poverty or lead to prosperity.

We are to be people of rooted character. That way we can cease to wither and instead prosper by setting our roots deep. How is it that we become rooted? By dwelling in God’s Word, we can live a better life. 

We need to recognize as overweight and obese people what rooted means for us. Just as with any area of life where we find ourselves fallen, our way of transforming is to be found in God’s Word. The greatest trees known to humanity are trees that set their roots deep in the earth for nourishment. We, too, must set our roots deep in God’s Word for deep, long-lasting transformation.

Christmas is a Time for Laughter

I shared in the very first blog of this series that I personally love Christmas. It is a remarkable time of year. Each Christmas my family has traditions that we enjoy - as you read through this blog series you will be able to conclude what is important to our family as we celebrate this season.

One of the things that makes our immediate and extended family a wonderful group is our laughter. Now I’m not suggesting that my family is funnier or laughs more effectively or even laughs more than most other families. What I am suggesting is that Christmas is a time for laughter.

One of my favorite Christmas films is one that makes me laugh hard every time I see it. Watch and enjoy Buddy! 

Most of my very best childhood memories come from the Christmas season. I could share with you story after story of our laughter and good times as a family. Some of those memories make me laugh and others bring a smile to my face because it was an event that touched my heart.  

I remember family Christmases where my Grandpa Andrews would dress up like Santa Clause and bring gifts to all the kids: I was so shocked to learn that Santa had a Texas drawl to his speech! Another time my cousin Scott who was probably about 9 years old walked into our home with his family carrying wrapped Christmas gifts. He handed me my wrapped gift and said, “Here’s your gloves!” I remember how much we laughed about that!

I’m sure that if we could sit down over a cup of coffee you could share some moments from your Christmas memories that would have us both laughing out loud.

Laughter is a sign of the season, and I know that even in the dark times we need to laugh. One of the greatest times of laughter was right around Christmas when my Grandmother Andrews had passed. We were at the dinner following the funeral. At first it was so sad, but people began to share stories about Grandma where she had been funny, or she had done something really special for someone. We laughed and laughed. It was a testament to her love for life.

Gather with your friends and family. Share your family stories and let your young ones laugh with you or watch one of your favorite Christmas movies and laugh. Laughter is good for you, your family and friends. Remember, laughter is highly underrated!

Christmas is a time for laughter. 

Redeemed: Filling the Void in Us

15 But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave. Psalm 49:15

The psalmist, in writing this one verse, is addressing those who mistakenly put their trust in riches. There are five stanzas into which most scholars divide Psalm 49. There is an introduction, the folly of trusting in wealth, the inevitability of death, the wisdom of trusting in God and finally the encouragement to embrace wisdom in light of the folly of riches. 

For today it is not my intent to discuss riches, but instead to encourage each of us to realize that the principle mentioned in this passage is true for everything we put our trust in instead of putting our trust in God. Many of us use food as our go-to coping. Whenever we turn to anything other than God, we are putting our trust in something that is only temporary.

The psalmist, in the earlier verses in chapter 49, tells us that those who trust in riches will perish and that those who chase after riches will have the same fate. Whether we are chasing after riches or something else, what we need is God and to place our trust in God. Chasing after a stress relief or a pleasure provider always ends in frustration. The pleasures of this world are momentary, and stress relief that becomes our focus in life leads to death. In many areas of life, we call them addictions, whether it is food, alcohol, drugs or even sexual promiscuity. There are other activities that we can participate in that while not recognized as addictions still become escape tools that lead us to death. People who spend hours a day in front of a television, playing computer games, gambling online or in person, or any number of activities that are not in the least bit productive…all of these behaviors lead us to death.

Please understand that I am not suggesting that enjoying a good book or a favorite television show or even a piece of fried chicken leads to death. What I am saying is that when we use these items or activities to fill the void in our lives, we place our trust in things rather than in God. When we place our trust in things, we fail to embrace the life Jesus has for us.

Let me wrap this up by explaining that our verse for today describes what happened in my life. In my time on Biggest Loser and numerous occasions since the ending of the show, I have had to make choices. It was not exercise and eating right that saved my life. Those activities are behaviors that I practice today. Instead, what saved my life was the fact that I encountered God and put my trust in him. My new behaviors grew out of my love for him, for myself and even my family. I embraced God as my redeemer.

What did God do? He completely redeemed my life. I was on course for an early death. Kidney infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, intestinal blockages, sepsis; all of these were part of my medical struggles prior to the change. My life was redeemed.

In this verse, there is eternal meaning implied. I recognize that redeeming my life and snatching me from the power of the grave has eternal meaning. What I think many people today fail to realize is that redemption, while not complete, begins right now. For those who are redeemed, death is only a gateway.

I had never felt more alive than when I put my trust in the Lord and accepted his redemption.

How do you put your trust in the Lord? Are you trusting in God or your meal plan? Realize that our power source for change is God. Meal plans, exercise and good information are only tools for us to use in God’s power and his will.

My faith is not in exercise, meal plans, food logging or any of the other skills, activities or tools I encourage people to use. My faith is in God. Those activities are simply the things I do out of my love for him, my family and myself so that I can achieve all the life God intends for me to live on this earth.

God redeems; we live. Go out and live a little today. This is our worship to him. 

Enjoying the Journey

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We have to enjoy what we do to further our health. 

We can have the best diet plans in place, the best workouts planned, the best accountability in the world, the greatest meal prep happening but if we are not enjoying parts of it and excited about it we will struggle. 

The Balancing Act

Now, this is a balancing act because, we can't just eat what we enjoy, and we can't just move when or how we enjoy BUT we have to incorporate that enjoyment into our plan. 

If we don't, our journey becomes this frantic thing. We get bogged down in our to do list and while some of us can keep that focus moving forward, MANY of us can lose our momentum and get stuck. Without motivation. Without hope at times... feeling like there isn't anyway forward. 

Joy and the Journey

Joy has to be in the journey. Peace has to be in the journey. Faith has to be in the journey. This is why Fitness and Health, in my humble opinion, must be coupled with Faith. The richness in the journey changes and shifts so dramatically when we include God in our forward progress. 

God at the center of our Joy. God at the Center of our Hope and our Faith. 

I started our chat today talking about doing what we enjoy and I want to elaborate on that. We need to find ways to incorporate things that we like. 

Do you like boxing? Walking? Running? Do you like zumba? Do you like Swimming? Yoga?

See, I can tell you that weightlifting is good for your muscles , or that swimming is great to take the pressure off your joints but if you hate swimming (like me) you'll never be excited. 

I want you excited. I want you pumped up! I WANT you to be looking forward to some moments... But I also need to challenge you in this. 

I don't want to lie to you. I can tell you that enjoyment needs to be a part of the journey, and that's true, but this also comes with balance. Many of us have moments where we are frustrated, angry, sad, depressed and those are ok to experience.

If you become sad, or frustrated I ask you to do three things.

1. First, Take a deep breath. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and panic or go off the “deep end.” You don’t have too.  

2. Second, think about good things .

  • Where you were when you started.
  • How hard the workouts were,
  • how hard drinking water was.
  • Think about the changes you have made, small changes or big, and recognize that you have done them to this point. Even though you aren’t perfect in these areas, they are achievements.

3. Third, Target the next step. Don’t bog yourself down with changing everything, all at once to get back to where you may have been before. Focus on the next, one thing and do it.

You can do it. You can make progress today, even if this week was bad.

Changing our Habits Part 3

Four Steps to go from Poor Habits to Good Habits

We have discussed in Parts 1 and 2 our hope for change and the root of poor habits, and in today’s article we are looking at four steps we can take to replace poor habits with good ones.

One of our primary motivations to change poor habits into good habits is a matter of obedience and worship to God. This certainly is primary and it is this truth that gets me up early in the morning, but we cannot forget the incredible benefits we get when we live a life of obedience.

When we invite God to help us in our life change, we are working with God to help create a better life for ourselves. Improving our health creates confidence, improves our energy, and when lose weight (those of us who need to), it is an outward sign of the inner work that God is doing. Living healthy will help our relationships, stabilize our emotions and, once we’ve identified the root motivation of what drives us to unhealthy habits, help us feel empowered to embrace the transformation.

The Four Steps

These would more accurately be described as my four steps (not the best or the only four steps out there). These are the four steps I took in my own personal life transformation as I embraced my health journey.

When I stepped onto the Biggest Loser scene, three of these four steps were things I brought with me. What I mean is that three of these four steps were part of my personal development on a daily basis and the fourth was not something I had ever considered.  

It was during my Biggest Loser experience that I realized that part of my goal in embracing transformational life change was to stop the bad habits from controlling my life. This is how I made the changes:

Step #1—Commit Yourself to God’s Word. 

Now some of you felt bad as soon as you read this step. You felt bad because your Bible is perhaps sitting on your bed stand or on your desk, and it is dusty. For some of you, my mentioning God’s Word as step one made you feel that somehow because you struggle to embrace God’s Word you deserve the life you have.  

God’s Word is not meant to condemn you. God’s Word is not meant to beat you up and drive you back into the shadows.

God’s Word is one of the greatest tools designed by our Creator to promote life change within the heart of His children. God’s Word is meant to point to the weakness, promote healing, encourage belief, and cause life transformation.

I could list scripture after scripture that states this importance, but Psalm 119:105 says it simply, yet profoundly:

            Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. (NIV)

I knew that if I was going to really be able to change my life it was going to happen through the Bible. And in that same chapter, verse 11:

            I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

How did I do this? At first I thought about just spending time each day reading through the Bible, but after considering what I was going to have to endure on Biggest Loser, I chose a different path.  

I made several different Scripture Sheets with pages of themed scriptures in each group. One sheet was a group of promises, another was a group for controlling my words, another was a group about overeating, and finally another was focused on healing (if anyone is interested in these sheets, message me and I’ll have Austin put them in the Library email).  

Each day of the week, I took a few minutes and read through a different Scripture Sheet, gradually working my way through all of the sheets at least once a week. I hoped that over a period of several months I would allow these truths to permeate my being. The reason I did this is that I was standing upon scriptures like Matthew 7:24:

            Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Step #2—Cry out to God.

Now some of you read this second step and thought, “Wow, praying, what a novel suggestion. Why didn’t I ever think of this?” When I first starting putting together this part of our series, I did realize that reading the Bible and prayer are both suggestions that are not new ideas.

The fact that they are ancient solutions to our modern dilemma should not surprise us in any way. As I began to embrace the transformation process in my first few weeks on Biggest Loser, I began to rise early each morning to walk and made worship and prayer the first part of each walk.

Some will ask about the how to pray or even the correct formula to pray, but I want to share with you that prayer is just communication – talking - with God. One of the passages of scripture I used to believe that God would answer my prayer is:

            4I sought the Lord, and he answered me
                        and delivered me from all my fears.
            5Those who look to him are radiant,
                        and their faces shall never be ashamed.
            6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
                        and saved him out of all of his troubles.
            7The angel of the Lord encamps
                        around those who fear him, and delivers them.
            8Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
                                                            Psalm 34:4-8a

I am not suggesting that all prayer patterns are bad. Certainly they are not. But what I found is that in my desperation God heard my cry. There are no magical phrases in prayer that somehow guarantee we get what we want. When I’m praying I almost always end my prayers with the phrase “and I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” But even this sacred “formula” that many of us utilize when we pray is not magical. What makes this phrase powerful for the Christian is the personal relationship that we have with Jesus.

I encourage you to share with God openly and honestly. Cry out to him with sincere requests that flow from a passionate heart that loves God.  There is nothing you could tell God that would shock him – he knows everything about us and still loves us! 

Step #3—Keep your life goals in mind.  

Now this portion of how I focus on new habits, goals and God’s direction for my life, was developed from a devotional reading of Habakkuk 2. There are times that God speaks to us from the Bible and it is not necessarily from the historical context of the passage.

In my reading of Habakkuk many years ago, I read these verses:

            2Then the Lord answered me and said:
            Write the vision; make it plain on tablets,
                        so that a runner may read it.
            3For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
                        it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
            If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
                        it will surely come, it will not delay.
                                                            Habakkuk 2:2-3

I had traditionally written New Year’s resolutions, but they had never really mattered. I had done them out of tradition and not given them a whole lot of thought. But after contemplating the above passage, I renamed these annual resolutions. I called them my Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord. Since I started doing this in 1986, I have reworked them at least once a year.  I then print out a copy and put it in the front of a notebook that I use often, and make it part of my daily habits to read them.

For many of us our New Year’s Resolutions are wish dreams, but by making this a commitment and prayer to God, they become much more than a wish; they became a reality.

I am going to share part of my Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord for 2016. I have left out some, which are private and just between God and I.

Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord
            Revised 1/3/16 
Dear Heavenly Father,
First and foremost I want to simply renew my commitment to you. I find myself year after year approaching you bearing my weaknesses. Father, I simply surrender my weaknesses, faults and failures to you. I ask for your forgiveness. I rest in your mercy.  
In 2016, at the age of 54, I dedicate myself to being the best servant I can be. I will work hard to make Fit.Church and RetroFit Ministries all they should be. No matter how hard it is for me to embrace this adjustment, I will.…
I place myself in your hands and I place my future in your hands….
I am so grateful for renewed hope, energy and life. I truly can run the race you have placed before me. So with this in mind, Father, I on January 3, 2016, once again dedicate myself to your work and your will in my life. I choose to walk in the freedom you have brought to me and I ask humble that you would bless our endeavors.  
… With all my strength and will, I will with Christ help:
            Conduct daily devotionals.
            Reach my goal weight.
            Exercise 6 times weekly.
            Encourage and pray for each member of my family.
            Pray daily.
            Write and Publish my Testimony and other Fit.Church Materials.
            ...
            Stay out of debt.
            …
            Unashamedly share about Fit.Church
Lord I simply want to be a good follower of your son, Jesus. I rest in you.

Each day during my time with God, I read this as a prayer to the Lord. It keeps me on track with my life goals and what is most important in my life. Historically, I had various commitments that God helped me accomplish: buy a home, start my family, graduate from Fuller Seminary, pastor a church…these are just a few of the commitments that came about because of Christ’s strength in my life.

The greatest personal transformation request that was on my list every single year, year after year, was to lose weight and become healthy. After 25 years of reading this commitment almost daily, it finally happened in 2011.

Step #4—Recognize that you need others.

This last step was one that I did not practice until after I was on Biggest Loser. I would have told you I believed we needed community, but I did not practice this. I didn’t know how and throughout my life I had built walls around myself for self-preservation.  What this did was kept people out of my life, instead of letting people in to help me.

My time on Biggest Loser allowed me to come to the conclusion that I could not make this journey on my own. God never intended us to make this journey alone. This passage gives us several reasons that others are important:

9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
                                                                                          Ecclesiastes 3:9-12

This is one of the reasons that a sense of community is so important to Fit.Church. We really need others. When we are down someone else will be there to help lift us up.

We simply cannot do this journey alone. No one is strong and in control every moment of the day. This is why we have the Fit.Church private Facebook groups, the weekly video chats and the reason Austin and I allow people to text us as needed.

We simply need others to truly embrace the healthy life.

Conclusion

I know that many of you feel hopeless and lack confidence to change, but you have to realize that you truly can! With God on our side we are far stronger than we believe. We simply have to get off of autopilot. With God’s help we have to take control of our lives away from our flesh, and surrender control to God.

We are going to struggle to do this but we simply have to stop beating ourselves up. When we fall, we simply need to get back up and move forward in God’s strength and power.

The power of transformation begins in the mind. This is why the first three steps mentioned above are all about the discipline, the cleansing and the transformation of our minds. Remember Romans 12:2:            

            Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
            minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and
            acceptable and perfect.

Changing our bad habits to good ones is a battle that begins in the mind. By focusing on God’s Word, prayer, and the destiny God has called us to accomplish, we open our minds to transformational life change through the power of God.

I finally came to the point that I would rather die than continue to exist the way I had been. Now I realize, many of you have not traveled down the unhealthy road far enough to almost lose your life in the hospital. But take it from me, waking up in the hospital surrounding by your children aged 14-17, watching them pray and hope that you won’t die…well, let’s just say it can drive you to life change.  

No one was weaker than I. I know you can transform your life, because I did.

You can do this!  

Changing our Habits Part 2

Getting to the Root Cause:

            Understanding the Why of Our Struggle

In part 1 of our Changing Habits series we discussed that while there certainly is hope for change, most of us are in a place of self-deception. We have come to live out the incorrect beliefs we have about ourselves. Hope must exist for life to flourish.

There are many issues and areas we could discuss that could be potential roots of our issues, but rather than try to discuss a vast array of possible roots, I will instead deal with just a couple that generally are at issue in many of those who live unhealthy.

Hard truth: A Lack of Self-Worth

“You simply need to love yourself!” “I’m one who believes in self-love.” How often do we hear these kinds of statements? Often, if you watch the crowd around a person who says this, you see eye rolls. There is something about these statements that feels trendy or even fashionable. Some even think this kind of statement is clichéd and trite.

Now let’s consider John 3:16 which for most of us is one the most familiar verses in all of the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
 John 3:16

At the root of much of our addictive behavior, we find a form of self-loathing. A fundamental lack of love and respect for our self is almost always at the foundation of poor choices that abuse our bodies. When we fail to realize that as a child of God we are loved, chosen and accepted by God, we live as if we have no value. Many of us would even say we love ourselves, but our actions say something different about how we see ourselves.

Hard truth: We Selfishly Hold Onto The Sinking Ship

For many of us struggling with living healthy, we are not necessarily self-haters, but we are definitely people who struggle to give up things that we know are harmful.  We don’t remove ourselves from situations that are detrimental to our attempt at life change. Sometimes this behavior is what we have learned from our past and becomes simply our natural reaction to events or social situations.

All of us are the sum total of our experiences, memories, and beliefs and all of these combined bring us to the point of accepting things about ourselves that we should not accept. Let me state it this way: how many of us have childhood memories of various situations that leave us feeling bad about who we are? I may be the only one, but I think not. Part of the problem with memories from childhood is that we were viewing the situation through the lenses of childhood. Many times we don’t understand the depth and complexity of situations and while we feel today that we may not deserve real happiness, the very opposite is true.

I experienced some serious trauma as a child.  As I matured, I had to come to grips with the fact that many of my memories were from a broken perspective and incomplete. They were not trustworthy, yet I had built my life choices and reactions upon them.

There is a truth in the Bible: just the fact that you are a child of God on this earth means you are more worthy of good than you can even realize. Fill in the blank here with your name: “For God so loved ___________.” He loved you and gave his “one and only” for you. You deserve love and respect, not because of who YOU are, but because of who God is. You deserve the peace that comes to those who follow Jesus. We realize that we are not promised health throughout our life, but there are enough diseases and health issues beyond our control that we don’t need to eat and live in such a way as to ensure an early death! If we suffer from illness in this fallen world, so be it, but let’s not allow it to be self-inflicted by our bad habits.

Hard truth: Habits are Filling A Hole Inside

Psychologists can help us understand that most of us get something out of our current health situation. Our conflicted beliefs, painful experiences, and broken emotions cause us to embrace negative choices. For instance, many people I have met who were sexually exploited find that by gaining weight they don’t receive the same physical attention and are “safe”. I could list example after example that is like this. Our fear of rejection, failure, and friendships can lead us to behaviors that sabotage our own happiness and health.  

Some of us need to figure out how our current situation is benefitting us so we can break the cycle of sabotage. Some of us fail in our health journey because our excess pounds and lack of health is a perfect culprit to blame for why we don’t have the career, family, or lifestyle we want. It also allows us to keep the past buried rather than deal with it. Maybe this isn’t the case at all for you, but if you will take the time to begin to explore the foundation of your behavior, you will have taken the first step toward stepping away from self-destruction.

Why have we arrived here?  The root causes are many, but three common ones are poor self-worth, struggling to admit that we are sabotaging ourselves, and figuring out what hole inside we are trying to fill.  The truth is that we will never fill that hole – that alone is what Christ can do.  Our first step, however, is acknowledging why we have been doing what we do.