“The 12 Apostle of Ill Health”

One of my year end activities is to read through previous year(s) journals. It is exciting to see what I have learned and how I have matured… and disheartening to see those things against which I STILL struggle. Reading my own writing is a most credible witness to my personal discipline, and lack of self-control.

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If you don’t journal… I urge you to try it! If you do journal… I urge you to read what you have written over the last year(s).

Anyhow, in May of 2017, I was reading Gordon McDonald’s classic work, “Ordering Your Private World.” In this book, he quotes E. Stanley Jones who wrote about the “12 Apostles of Ill Health.” That quote was written in my journal along with a note about a Bible verse I had read earlier that morning. Both are instructive for the person wanting health!

Here is my journal entry:

E. Stanley Jones speaks of the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”: anger, resentments, fear, worry, desire to dominate, self-preoccupation, guilts, sexual impurity, jealousy, a lack of creative activity, inferiorities, a lack of love.”

Jones says, “In prayer, I’ve learned to surrender these things to Jesus Christ as they appear.”

This brings me back to 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God will not allow temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, He will show me a way out so I can endure.” (I personalized the verse in my journal, changing the words from “you” to “I/me”).

Take a minute and slowly read the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”:

  • anger
  • resentments
  • fear
  • worry
  • desire to dominate
  • self-preoccupation
  • guilts
  • sexual impurity
  • jealousy
  • a lack of creative activity
  • inferiorities
  • a lack of love.

See anything there that “rings your bell”? Anything there that is stealing spiritual energy? Depleting physical strength? Detracting from overall well-being? What are you doing about that “apostle”?

Jones found that prayer was a strategic tool in the battle for health. 

St. Paul said that God will provide deliverance from the things that tempt us and threaten to destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As I head into the new year, I see things on this list that need my attention. One of my strategies for reducing and even eliminating the influence of these “apostles” is going to be prayer.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jones’ list? How do you tackle these “12 Apostles of Ill Health”?

Guiding principles for students of Scripture

Today, I am working on material for a teaching series that I am going to give at Church180. We are going to be studying a letter that St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae around 60 A.D.

As I am working on this material, I keep thinking about basic principles that guide my approach to Scripture. I needed to write them down, and figured that this would be a good place to put them.

These are the principles that guide me as I read and prepare to teach Scripture.

  • There is a God.
  • He has told us who He is and what He wants in multiple ways. His most detailed revelation is through the Scriptures.
  • The Scriptures were written over multiple centuries by a diversity of men, in a diversity of circumstances.
  • The Scriptures were given by God to men to address specific, historical circumstances.
  • Many of these circumstances have changed since the time when the Scriptures were written (e.g. how we travel, how we communicate, the means of war, the introduction of global organizations, etc.).
  • While much has changed over the course of time, there is much that has not changed (e.g. basic human emotions, good, evil, etc.)
  • The work of the student is to determine what is timeless, and then apply it to 21st century living.
  • As we “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV) we will understand God and how to live “righteously” in the 21st century.

Much sloppy and destructive teaching has been done because of a disregard for basic hermeneutical principles. With that in mind, here are a handful of questions that guide me as I seek to “correctly handle the word of truth”:

  • Who wrote this? What was his point of view (e.g. Luke was a doctor. Amos was a farmer.)
  • To whom was it written? (e.g. Matthew wrote to a largely Jewish audience. Paul wrote to a largely Gentile audience.)
  • Why was it written? What issues are being addressed? (e.g. Proverbs is a collection of “wisdom sayings” collected over a period of years; Paul wrote to address specific issues and questions in various local churches)
  • What historical, geographical, cultural distinctives might influence this letter? (e.g. when Paul writes that women should not speak in church… is there something cultural going on that might help me understand this and properly apply it in the 21st century?) 
  • When I am studying a particular verse, I pay attention to what is said before and after that verse! In other words, pay attention to the context! Much harm has been done by teachers/preachers who have ignored context. There are multiple levels of context:
    • Immediate context – what is said in the sentences before and after the verse
    • Letter context – how should I understand this verse in light of the entire letter? To whom was it written? Why was it written? What is said at the beginning and end of this letter? How does that influence my understanding of the verse in question?
    • Author context – If I am studying something that Paul said, I ought to inquire as to whether he has addressed this topic in his other writings. 
    • Testament context – If I am studying something in the New Testament, how do other New Testament authors address this topic? Do they even address it?
    • Broader context – does my understanding of the verse in question agree with the broader teaching of Scripture? If my understanding of a particular verse is in conflict with other verses of Scripture… I am probably understanding it incorrectly.

The study of Scripture is a serious matter and ought to be taken seriously. There is great reward for the one who does this work seriously. One of my favorite quotes regarding this matter comes from St. Paul:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)

 

How I disappoint myself

I am most disappointed in myself when I give in to myself.

  • When I hit snooze…
  • When I say the first thing that comes to mind…
  • When I procrastinate…
  • When I skip the gym…
  • When I skip a date with one of my girls…

Whenever I give into my weak desires… I disappoint myself.

As a matter of fact, I can disappoint myself more bitterly than anyone else can disappoint me!

The opposite is also true.

When I do the hard, but right thing… I am deeply gratified and pleased. 

One of my favorite sayings these days is:

Easy choices… hard life. Hard choices… easy life.

Do the thing you know you ought to do… not the thing you want to do… you won’t regret it!

***This post was inspired by the fact that I got out of bed and followed my morning ritual this morning… and I feel GREAT! While on the other hand, I did not do that yesterday… and felt off all day!

Eating Frogs and Turds

This morning I walked with a couple of my girls (we were too tired to run). While we were walking we had a great conversation about doing difficult things.

I was able to string together some great, and funny, pieces of advice I’ve heard from others. It went like this…

If you eat a frog, first thing in the morning, everything else will be easy by comparison.

This is Brian Tracy’s way of encouraging people to stop procrastinating on the hard things! Do them first… and everything else will be easy in comparison! He wrote a book by that title.

The second piece of advice made us all laugh. Well… at least me. It made me laugh (the girls just rolled their eyes).

I can’t recall exactly who said it, but, unfortunately, it’s not original. Here goes…

If you have to eat a turd, don’t nibble!

In other words, if you have to do something that’s difficult… don’t take forever! Get it done quickly!

That’s such good advice!

Do the hard things first… and do them quick. That’s a formula for a good day (assuming you brush your teeth afterwards)!

Hug the Struggle

hugBen Horowitz wrote a New York Times bestseller called, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” In this book, he discusses the underbelly of leadership; the hard and unglamorous stuff that few talk about or consider. He tells and dissects leadership experiences… the hard ones… the REAL hard ones!

I actually picked this book up when I heard Bill Hybels recommend it.

Anyhow, the other day I was reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and came across a “poem” that Horowitz wrote. It flowed out of his experiences, and was sparked by a sentence from Karl Marx, “Life is struggle.” Here’s Ben…

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.

The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.

The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.

The Struggle is when food loses its taste.

The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is The Struggle.

The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.

The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.

The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.

The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough.

Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through The Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle.

The Struggle is where greatness comes from.

AHHH!!! I love and hate this! I hate it, because I know how it feels. I love it, because I know that “the struggle” will produce something, if I don’t run… or quit!

So, stay in the game! Pray often. Work hard. Get counsel. Cry. Cuss (not all the time, but sometimes… and not at anyone!). Exercise. Eat some food. Get some rest… and get back into the struggle! The struggle is your friend! It builds your strength and prepares you for the next level! Hug the struggle!

You can get the book (I recommend it), or you can read this article on “the struggle”.

What’s worse than having sex with your step-mom?

WHOA!!

Crazy question huh?

Well, this morning I was reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I know what’s in this letter… I’ve read it dozens of times. I know that Paul is going to rebuke the church for being proud of one of their members who was having sex with his step-mom.

Do you remember that? Here’s what he says:

I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT)

Now there’s a lot to catch there, but I want to direct your attention to this one thing – did you see “chapter” in which this rebuke is located? It’s about a third of the way into his letter to this young church!

Yea… it’s pretty messed up that a guy is having sex with his step-mom. It’s even worse that his church is proud of it! You’d think something like that might get addressed FIRST in Paul’s letter! But it didn’t!

Do you know what Paul tackled first?

After a nice, friendly greeting, which is instructive for pastors and church leaders – be gracious and kind… even to people who are really jacked up, Paul tackles FIRST the matter of divisions and rivalries in church caused by spiritual immaturity! 

Check this out:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT)

WHOA! BEFORE he addressed the crazy sex thing… he rebuked the church for being spiritually immature and divided! He rebuked them for being jealous and acting like middle-schoolers bragging about what brand of shoe they wear!

There’s something important here for all of us who call ourselves Christians…

If you are arguing and divisive… the greatest problem in your church probably isn’t the dude who is sexually weird.

If St. Paul were to write a letter to your church, my guess is he’d start by talking to you!

He’d get around to dealing with the sexual craziness, but because that’s not the worst problem, he wouldn’t start there!

Listen, if you are a Christian, please focus on building one another up; focus on creating a place where there is love and unity, encouragement and grace.

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT CURMUDGEONS!

Christians don’t do cliques.

Christians don’t do rivalry with one another!

There certainly is a place and a time for confrontation and difficult conversation, but this is all part of teamwork with the end goal of encouraging and building one another up!

So here’s the thing I’m thinking about…

If St. Paul came to my church… what is the first thing he would address? I hope it would not be cranky, divisive Christians!

Peace!

Why I stepped away from personal training

Last week I made the most difficult decision of my life thus far. I decided to step away from being a personal trainer.

For the last five years I have been a personal trainer at a place that literally transformed my life… Brutal Iron Gym.

When I first walked into that building, back in 2009, I was in a dark place spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Through friendships, hard work, increased levels of self-control, and renewed courage and confidence I rediscovered myself.

When Rob Polenik (the owner of Brutal Iron Gym) asked me to be a trainer, and then asked me to consider competing in a bodybuilding show (in the physique division)… I didn’t know then, but he was saving my life.

When I walked into the gym I was close to walking out of ministry. I was burned out; disheartened; weak; and unhealthy.

Over the last five years I have worked with wonderful people, made incredible friendships, and rediscovered God and myself in the most unlikely of environments… surrounded by sweaty people, screaming music, and the nonstop clanking of iron.

I needed what Brutal Iron Gym gave me… strength. I needed to learn how to put a plan together and work the plan. I needed to learn how to persevere when I felt miserable. I needed to learn how to bounce back from failure. I needed to learn how to work on my weaknesses so that my strength would increase. I needed all of this… and found it at Brutal Iron Gym.

I walked in unhealthy and weak. I walk out healthy and strong. Thank you Rob. Thank you Brutal Iron Gym. Thank you to all of my friends and clients. I am different… better because of you.

This has been the hardest decision of my life. Seriously.

For the last 6-12 months I have had an “inkling” that this would happen. I ignored it… because I hated the idea.

Over the last two months I began to say it out loud – “Someday I may need to say goodbye to this chapter in my life.”

Last week God put His finger in my chest, and I knew with undeniable clarity that it was time to do what I had been slowly acknowledging. So I am doing it. After meeting with Rob and all of my clients, I determined that the end of this month (March) will close this chapter in my life. (EXCEPTION CLAUSE: I am working with two clients who are prepping for shows and I will complete my commitment to them.)

So why? Why am I leaving?

I’m not sure what you believe about God, but I believe that He creates and calls us to a purpose… a life mission. I know that my life purpose/mission is to pastor and lead in the church. In my case it is Church180.

It has taken me about ten years to fully recover from my “ministry miscarriage” (a church plant that failed to materialize). During these last years I have rediscovered strength, hope, vision, and energy, and now it’s time to engage all of those in the primary calling of my life… leading and loving the church.

I will continue to nurture friendships developed at the gym, and I will continue to work out… in other words, I’ll not be a fat pastor with no atheist friends!!! 😉

I have cried over this decision… and found deep peace in making it.

I am sad and excited! I am a little scared and a lot fired-up!

I have learned a lot from my time as a trainer… and now I’m ready to fully dive into the primary calling of my life.

To all of my friends at Brutal Iron Gym… I love you and am grateful for your input into my life. I’m better and stronger, and I know a lot more “bad songs” because of you! I love you!

To all of my friends at Church180… I love you and am excited about what God is going to do in us and through us as we line up behind Him and get to work lifting heavy things!