How’s Your Health?

Over the past several years my wife and I have been changing our lifestyle in the area of health and fitness. I have to be honest that early on I was not into it. I grumbled, complained and resisted. Yet, we pressed forward, not with the hope of just losing some weight, but with the goal of becoming healthy and staying healthy. We both decided that we did not just want to diet, lose weight and then go back to our old habits. So we worked hard at developing new habits, new tastes and new thoughts about food, rest and exercise.

Today I read this verse in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 from the Message – “didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you, God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”

Over the years I have abused my body through overeating, lack of exercise and inadequate rest. When our lives are hectic and fast-paced, running here and there it is difficult to take care of ourselves. Stress begins to slowly build and it builds to the point of damaging us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So, how do we counteract a frenetic lifestyle and work related stress?

First: Recognize that “Our body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit”. Part of growing spiritually is to become healthy physically. When we take steps away from our old habits of eating, bad attitudes toward exercise, bad habits of putting things into our body that damage it and thoughts that lead to the destruction of our body, we start growing more spiritually. It must be a decision to get healthy and grow closer to God, not just to go on a diet and lose some weight. We need to have a bigger perspective on how our physical health affects our spiritual and emotional health.

Second: Establish a fitness program. Vikki and I had to get some help early on to learn the right way to eat and the right way to think about food and exercise. God made some incredibly healthy food that can do wonders for our body, but if we don’t eat them it is of no value. Ten Healthiest Foods in the World.

It took being intentional about meeting with someone and sticking to a program called “Thin & Healthy” for us to start breaking away from the old ways of thinking and doing. Here are some things we learned:

  1. Eat all the food groups every day: Protein, Grains/Carbs, Dairy, Veggies, Fruits. (No chocolate is not a food group)
  2. Eat the right number of servings of each food group every day.
  3. Understand how much one serving is – We had to measure and weigh a lot of our food
  4. We learned to watch the fat grams in every food we ate
  5. We started reading the ingredients of all the foods we ate
  6. We stopped eating foods with little or no nutritional value
  7. We learned that you needed some sort of movement every day
  8. We began to do more research on our own – Mostly Vikki, she is amazing!

Three years later we have both lost weight, increased our metabolism, improved our overall health and just plain feel better. We also have learned a lot on our own by researching and studying how to eat healthy. We lowered our cholesterol, improved our blood pressure, reduced our body fat and have increased our strength and overall fitness. We still have areas to improve and we have setbacks like everyone, but we have chosen to stay on this path.

Basically you need a plan, you need a coach, you need accountability and you need to decide. Since my wife and I have made these changes, it has drawn us closer as a couple, it has actually helped us to grow more healthy emotionally and spiritually, because we are able to better handle stress.

Here is a link to a local Thin & Healthy Program. Remember that this program or any others like it are not the magic answer to super health. We need to take personal responsibility for our physical health. That means a new mindset of learning about healthy eating and exercise and then actually doing what we learn. That applies to our spiritual and emotional health as well.

If you think taking care of yourself physically isn’t “spiritual” think again! It’s just as harmful to let yourself become run down through bad habits as it is to abuse drugs and alcohol. Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” make time. It could save your life! In the meantime you will feel better and be a lot easier to live with.

Focus on these three areas of your life – Physical, Emotional & Spiritual. Develop a plan to grow in each of those areas and you will begin the process of transforming your life and your relationships.

What Are You Interested In?

What are you most interested in? I am sure several things came to your mind. Things like gardening, good food, sports, cars, cats, dogs, Facebook, well you get the idea. Now, if you are in an intimate relationship with another person, do you know what they are interested in? Most likely you do.

Usually early in the relationship you are all about what they are interested in. If he likes NASCAR you sit with him and watch and even buy stuff with his favorite driver’s number. If she is into shopping you volunteer to take her to the mall and you wait for her as she tries on 10 outfits. When you are dating you are very interested in what the other person is interested in. At least in most cases this is true. It’s part of the courting process, trying to win them over.

Over time that tends to lessen. You start to get annoyed with those things that he is interested in. You don’t have the patience you once had. You simply don’t take the time to do things that you are not interested in.

Here is something that the Apostle Paul wrote about this topic. He is talking about how we should act if we are followers of Christ. If we have that relationship in our lives we should then demonstrate how to love other people in a healthy way, the way that Jesus demonstrated love for us.

So this is how we should show love and treat other people, especially our spouses.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than your selves. Each of you should also look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

What if that read this way – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider Vikki better than yourself. Chad you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of Vikki.”

So what does that mean to you and I? One simple way is to listen well. When we take the time to really focus on the other person and listen patiently and ask questions to find out more about what they are interested in, that is what Paul is talking about. When we make a decision to learn more about something even though it does not interest us, it shows the other person that we care.

How many wives are deeply interested in what their husband does at work? He spends most of his waking hours working and sometimes the most important person in his life could care less what he is doing at work. Of course that goes both ways, how many husbands are truly interested in what their wives did all day at work or at home. Or maybe he is really into sports and you could care less. That sends a message to him. Or what if she is really into gardening and you could care less about that, that sends a message to her.

When we don’t make the effort to be interested in what interests our spouse we tend to drift apart. Now this doesn’t mean we need to become obsessed with what they are interested in, but it means we need to have a different mindset about relationships. In healthy relationships we are constantly learning about each other and adjusting. We are looking for ways we can connect and serve each other. We are looking for ways to have meaningful conversations so that we can understand each other better.

So think about how you can show more interest in what your spouse or significant other is interested in. Start by listening better, really paying attention when they are talking about something they value. Ask some questions, to help you better understand. When you do this it will express to the other person that they are important to you and that you value them. That simple change in your mindset can transform your relationship. Try it and see how surprised they are when you show interest!

Why We Do What We Do

Since we are starting a new series called the Marriage Experts this Sunday at NewPointe, I thought I would share a good article from Dr. Gary Chapman. Anyone that is in a marriage relationship or is hoping to be married someday needs to be aware of the relational things that keep us from having lasting healthy relationships. The more you understand about your spouse and why they do what they do the better you can respond and communicate.

Here is the Article:

In a really difficult marriage, you will never be able to address the real problems until you understand what motivates your spouse’s behavior. All of our behavior is motivated by inner needs.

One husband complained, “She thinks she is smarter than I am.” His wife’s perspective? “Any time I disagree with him, he thinks I’m trying to control him. I just want to be a part of the decision. Sure I call him names, but it’s because I want him to listen to me.” Both husband and wife are motivated by the need to be treated as a person. They want to feel that their ideas are important to the other.

If you can understand the motivation, you can address the need instead of arguing over the symptoms. It might start with, “I value your ideas, and I want us to work together as a team.”

The Need for Love
Do you understand that some of your spouse’s most negative behavior may be motivated by the need for love? Barb complains that her husband doesn’t have time for her. She often raises her voice and delivers angry lectures to him, accusing him of not caring for her. Sometimes these lectures work. Her husband Bob will sit down and talk with her.

Wouldn’t it be better if Bob understood that her primary love language is Quality Time and would make time regularly to talk with Barb. Addressing her need for love may well eliminate her negative behavior. Learning to identify the emotional need that is behind your spouse’s behavior is a major step in being a positive influence in an otherwise Desperate Marriage. Don’t curse the behavior. Address the need.

The Need for Freedom
One of our deepest emotional needs is the need for freedom. In a marriage, we want to be free to express our feelings, thoughts, and desires. We want the freedom to make choices. We often do things for each other, but we don’t want to be manipulated or forced to do things. If we feel like we are being controlled we get defensive and angry.

Freedom is never to be absolute; to be totally free is to live a life without love. Love chooses to look out for the interest of the other person. However, if we realize this need for freedom we will allow our spouse freedom to make choices. We will make requests but not demands. We will express our opinions, but give them the freedom to disagree. Love and freedom are two key elements in a healthy marriage.

The Need for Significance
If you are married to a workaholic, do you understand that one of the emotional needs that pushes the workaholic is the need for significance. Many do not realize that our real significance comes from being children of God and living out His plans for us. Thus they put all their marbles in excelling in the market place, and often neglect the home.

Perhaps his father said, “You will never amount to anything.” So, he spends a lifetime trying to prove his father wrong. If you are married to a workaholic, don’t curse his work. Praise him for his accomplishments. Tell him how proud you are of him. With more praise coming from you he will likely choose to spend more time with you. On the other hand, your condemnation pushes him to spend more time at work.

The Conflict of Recreation vs Relaxation
Many of our conflicts in marriage focus on recreation or relaxation. She complains that he spends too much time watching TV. He sees her as a nervous cat who never relaxes. She says there is too much work to be done. She does not have time to watch TV. However, if you examine her schedule, you’ll likely find her relaxing in other ways.

One of our basic physical and emotional needs is the need for recreation or relaxation. The need for rhythm, of movement between work and play was ordained by God. The old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” reflects this fundamental need. In a healthy marriage we don’t try to force our spouse to relax the way we do. Instead, we try to help each other find a balance between work and play.

What Love Really Means

I have been thinking a lot about marriage lately. I have had individuals and couples coming to me asking for help. Many are broken, hurting, confused and angry. As I listen to the different stories of heartache and struggle, my advice is usually similar to anyone I talk with.

  • Focus on yourself and making changes that will make you a better person
  • Re-Focus on your relationship with God and growing more intimate with Him
  • Listen carefully to what Jesus says

Today I was reading in the book of John and came across this amazing command that Jesus gave us. It is very simple yet profound and if put into practice can dramatically change us and our relationships. It’s found in John Chapter 13 verse 34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. That’s the first part of the verse, and you might be saying to yourself OK but how do I do that? I know I should love her, but I don’t have any feelings for her anymore. I know I should love him but I just don’t.

Jesus is using the word love here as an action, a verb, not a noun. Some people would define love as the feeling you feel when you feel a feeling like you’ve never felt before. That is not what Jesus is talking about here. Love is not a feeling or a thing, it is an action. Jesus is telling us to love one another through how we treat each other, how we talk to each other, how we think about each other.

Later in the book of Ephesians Paul talks about Submitting to each other, which is another way of saying love each other through the action of submitting.

The rest of verse 34 says this – “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” So here is the marriage saving, relationship changing question – How do I love other people like Jesus loves me?

Jesus is commanding us to love one another at the same level as he loved us. His love was sacrificial. Jesus says that when we love like he loves it shows we are his disciples. If you are a follower of Christ, you represent his church. So do people see bickering, jealousy, disunity, gossip, anger, bitterness, pride and ego instead of unconditional love.

Love is more than warm fuzzy feelings, those feelings come and go; its an attitude that reveals itself in action. Love is something that must be learned and improved over time. This type of love does not come naturally, but supernaturally from God. So, how can we love others, including our spouse, as Jesus loves us?

  • By helping when it’s inconvenient
  • By serving when we would rather be served
  • By giving when it hurts
  • By showing kindness and gentleness
  • By listening
  • By believing the best instead of the worst
  • By persevering through the tough times
  • By making time in our busy schedules (not just time but quality time)
  • By slowing down to notice when someone is hurting and do something to help
  • By asking for forgiveness and forgiving others
  • By resolving conflict, instead of burying it

Now go read what Paul has to say in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 about this kind of love.

Seven Habits of Highly-Effective Givers

I came across this today in a discipleship session with a guy I have been meeting with. The topic of the day was stewardship, which means; one who acts as a supervisor or administrator, as of finances and property, for another or others.

One of the topics we discussed was the idea of giving and being generous. I thought this was helpful so I will share it here as well.

For most successful people, effectiveness is a key goal. A successful follower of Christ is concerned with being an effective giver. There are seven habits of effective givers that become apparent in Scripture.

Seven Habits of Highly-Effective Givers:

  1. Highly-effective givers give without drawing attention to themselves. They don’t want the attention of the church or its leaders. Their motivation is not to be viewed by others as generous. (Matthew 6:3-4)
  2. Highly-effective givers give regularly. They are aware that God is the supplier of all their resources and they willingly offer the best of all their increases back to God. (Proverbs 3:9-10).
  3. Highly-effective givers give cheerfully. They understand that their attitude in giving is more important than the amount of their gift. (2 Corinthians 9:7).
  4. Highly-effective givers give generously. They give above and beyond the expectations of church leaders and out of the overflow of their intense love for God and others. (2 Corinthians 9:6).
  5. Highly-effective givers give proportionally. They try to give back to God as much as they are able to, recognizing the tithe as the biblical benchmark for giving. When you tithe and give beyond it week by week you will deposit funds to your heavenly account. When you give to God first as much as you are able, you tend to treat all the rest of your possessions as more sacred before God. Finally, tithing is a preventative measure against depression. When you are faithful in giving, when tough times come you can sense victory and an increased faith, generous people are usually less depressed. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 & 2 Corinthians 8:12).
  6. Highly-effective givers give locally. They gratefully support the local church ministries from which they receive spiritual encouragement, growth and benefit. They believe that the local church is the hope of the world. (Romans 15:25-29 & 2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
  7. Highly-effective givers give expectantly. They don’t just offer a donation to an organization. They give an offering to God, relying on His promise of provision and blessing to far exceed their expectations. (2 Corinthians 9:10-15).

Giving is a highly rewarding thing. I encourage you to start to pray about how God might want you to be more highly-effective in your giving.

Six Leadership Qualities

I have been interested in leadership since my junior year in High School when my principal called me into his office and asked me if I was thinking about going into the military. That was not something I had thought much about so I said no, why? He told me that he sees leadership qualities in me and that people are following me at school. It may have had something to do with me organizing a sit in and refusing to go to class. I can’t remember why we were protesting. He said he thinks it would do me good to go learn some discipline to go with that leadership.

That was the first time someone told me they thought I was a leader and it planted the seeds that have led me to pursue becoming a better leader over the past 20 years. My personal mission statement is ‘To grow and help others grow in faith, character and leadership”. I have read many leadership books, gone to lots of conferences and seminars. I have listened to messages about leadership and watched movies with great leadership themes. I have interviewed leaders and watched leaders for most of my life.

I also have read through the entire Bible a few times and by far it has the most leadership principles of anything I have ever come across. I was recently reading in Mark chapter 1 about Jesus, the greatest leader of all time. Here are a few leadership qualities he demonstrated in his life that we can learn from:

  1. Competence: He took responsibility for developing the people he called to follow him. He knew what was important, and what he needed to have to pour into them.
  2. Comprehension: He had a thorough understanding of the Scriptures. He clearly saw the big picture and how he fit into that. You could also call this perspective.
  3. Command: He had authority and command of every situation. He was self-confident because he knew what his vision and mission was. He took charge with confidence because he knew himself well and he knew God was with Him.
  4. Control: He maintained organization and control in messy situations. He did not get flustered or panic when things got difficult or threatening. He kept his composure and remained calm. This helped him make better decisions.
  5. Compassion: He served and healed the pain of others. His focus was on other people and serving them, not on himself. He took the time because he cared deeply about the hurting people around him.
  6. Communion: His source of power and strength came from his constant connection to his Father. He often took time from his busy schedule to spend time with his Father God. He prayed in solitude – He knew how to renew and recharge on a regular basis.

All of us can grow in these areas as leaders. What areas do you need to work on? How can you become more like Jesus as a leader whether at work, home, school, community or church?

Leadership is a journey and a process. As a leader you must constantly be growing, changing and learning. When you stop growing, changing and learning you stop leading.

Panic & Desperation

I read this great quote from Jim Collins the other day:

“When we find ourselves in trouble, when we find ourselves on the cusp of falling, our survival instinct-and our fear-can evoke lurching, reactive behavior absolutely contrary to survival. The very moment when we need to take calm, deliberate action, we run the risk of doing the exact opposite and bringing about the very outcomes we most fear.”

When I read that I said wow. How true that often is. Desperate people tend to do desperate things. When you panic you tend to do things that do even more damage.

Maybe your marriage is slipping away and you begin to panic. You start grasping for anything out there that can “save” your marriage. You run the risk here of pushing the other person further away by trying to control the situation and outcome. The tighter your grip the worse it gets.

This is when you need to loosen your grip and focus on yourself. Face the fears that are causing you to respond and react in unhealthy ways. Get help for yourself, not the other person. If they make that choice as well, great. If not you need to keep working on your rough edges and blind spots. You need to work on becoming the best version of you possible. That means learning to speak the love language of your spouse. Communicating in ways that connect with your spouse. Looking for ways you can serve, respect and love your spouse.

This quote applies in almost all areas of life, whether business or personal. When you are going down, try not to panic and make a quick decision. Get wise counsel, read God’s word, be patient and listen more than you talk. Examine yourself and your motives. Ask yourself tough questions and work on developing a plan of action with specific clear things you can do to improve your situation. If it’s your finances then talk with someone that knows about finances and set some clear achievable goals to start working on.

Don’t allow your fears to paralyze you or cause you to panic. When you face them, with God, you can overcome nearly all obstacles. You will also emerge a stronger healthier person.

Your Calling

Last week I made the comment that “Your calling is often connected to what troubles you deeply and how you have been hurt in the past.” Here is what I mean by that.

In the book of Nehemiah, in the first chapter it talks about Nehemiah asking about how the Jews that had returned to rebuild Jerusalem were doing. When they reported that things were not going well and that it looked like the city was not making any progress, this was his response: “When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-heaven.”

For William Wilberforce it was slavery. He devoted most of his life to seeing it ended in England. For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, it was the injustice that oppressed and persecuted African-Americans.

If you want to discover your calling, start praying about what troubles you deeply. What do you cry about? What makes your heart break? If it is helping the poor, then spend some time around those in poverty. If it is helping single moms, then start meeting with some single moms. If it is divorce, then get involved with some people that have been hurt through divorce. Allow your heart to be moved and shaped into action.

Larry Crabb said this – “The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things.”

Nehemiah was passionate about the persecution of his Jewish brothers and had a vision for rebuilding a city. When God gives you a burden, it is usually an indication this could be your calling. If you have a burden for something, do what Nehemiah did. First he fasted and prayed and wept. He spent time with God, but he also dove into it. He put together plans, checklist and material that it would take to accomplish the goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He prepared himself so that when an opportunity came along to make a difference he was ready.

As you pray about what is troubling to you start to research how you can get involved. Talk to others that have a similar burden. Check out organizations that are working on whatever issue you are drawn to. For example it may be human trafficking that has been troubling you. There are some great organizations that are passionate about this cause. Go to their website, send some emails, make some phone calls. Start praying for those organizations. Here is one you can check out International Justice Mission

Maybe you don’t have a burden. That’s OK, I am sure you have some hurts from your past. Another way you can discover your calling is to examine where you have been. I believe there is purpose in your past. Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” When your pain threshold was tested and your endurance was stretched to the breaking point, that is where God works to bring good. Things like Divorce, abuse, death, alcoholism, cancer, depression, job loss, bankruptcy, eating disorders, miscarriages, abortion, affairs, marriage struggles all bring great pain and great opportunity. The great opportunity is that these things can bring about great change in us if we work with God to heal and become healthy. Once we are on our way to recovery, we can then begin to help others that are not as far along as we are.

The great ministry opportunity comes because now you understand the pain someone else is going through. You can listen with empathy and know what is helpful and what is not helpful. You know how to pray for that person, encourage that person and come alongside them through their dark time.

Max Lucado said this “God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at age thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it’s in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. So does God.” We are God’s instruments, his desire is for us to be in good enough shape to help someone else that is bent or broken. He does the work, but he uses us as his instruments.

So to find your calling look to what troubles you deeply or how you have been hurt in the past. Start by praying, fasting, and planning. Taking action is the key, when God opens the door we need the courage to take a step of faith, to take a risk and pursue your calling.

The reason you and I exist is to first have a relationship with God and then to make a difference in other peoples lives. To do that we first must work on ourselves and get as healthy as we can. But don’t wait until you “have it all together” or you will never actually do anything meaningful. God is calling you to himself and to a ministry.