encouragement

A Powerful Statement

"Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord." --Isaiah 2:5

Read: Isaiah 2

Walking is a powerful statement. We've spent a few days this week on the subject, but there are a few biblical faces I wish I could see as they put one foot in front of the other. Try to imagine Abraham's anguished face as he walked with Isaac toward the altar; a wide-eyed Moses when his feet touched the Red Sea's floor; a groggy Lazarus coming out of the tomb; a soon-to-be-blind Saul heading to Damascus. The visionary Paul pacing in prison writing, "We walk by faith". Picture the crippled boy carrying his bed through town, or a once-blind Bartimaeus -- now turned follower -- not letting Jesus out of his sight. I'd love to have seen Simone the Cyrene heading to Jerusalem, or Simon the Cyrene leaving Jerusalem. The two mourning disciples shuffling along the road to Emmaus just before their eyes were opened, or Peter's look of wonder as he strolled across the water.

Oh, we could go on and on, right? Some of the greatest moments of all-time occurred during one of life's most basic yet powerful actions. Whether they were called, healed, leading, following or reminiscing, we get to imagine their faces of faith as they walked. But I don't think the best evidence of its power is found on the floor of the Red Sea. It's not on the island of Patmos or somewhere along the road to Damascus.

How does the Bible describe the miracle moment of the Word becoming flesh? He walked among us. Of all the ways God chose to relate to us, making footprints was one of them. And those precious feet wouldn't stop until they were nailed to a Roman cross. The hill of Calvary didn't require Paul's brilliant mind, Job's resilience, Mary's innocence, Luke's precision, Joseph's persistence or the positive encouragement of Barnabas. No, Calvary required the perfect, spotless, blameless, loving, grace-giving walk of the Savior.

Evidence of faith, of agreement, of courage, of vision, of passion and purpose, of love and amazing grace. Walking is a powerful statement.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: We know the specialness of a walk, don't we? The bride in her aisle. The soldier exiting the plane home. The surgeon walking out to family with good news. What walk are you about to make? What steps of faith will you take to get your soul where it needs to go? Make no mistake, your walk is powerful statement. Say something with it today.

Sister Powell Update: Hey everyone, Sister Powell received the prayers and thoughts from everyone. She's traveling from the jungle of Cambodia en route home. Thank you guys for blessing her and me with your words. Here is her reply to you all:

"Jimmy, I am honored by your kindness and your generous spirit toward Henry and me. I praise the Lord that Henry lived long enough to see the Godly man you have become. I thank the Lord we both saw the stable marriage you and Loretta have. And, I thank the Lord for my PrayFit partners. I just received this e-mail and devotion. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

You are like the steel girders under the bridge, holding me up. I cannot even express the encouragement you deliver to me through your words and responses. Encourage means to put courage in another. Truly, you have and continue to do that for me. I am both humbled and grateful."

DID YOU KNOW?

High blood sugar can sour your mood. In a recent study, researchers found that people who drink two and a half cans of soda daily are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious than those drinking less pop. What's more, the depressed have a heightened risk for Type II diabetes. The reverse also holds true: Diabetics are twice as likely as others to suffer depression.

Source: Jeff O'Connell's "Sugar Nation"

It's a Run/Walk

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." --Ephesians 5:2

Read: Ephesians 5

An author, speaker and member of the 1972 Olympic team, Jeff Galloway is a world-class runner. He broke the U.S. 10-mile record in 1973, and among his victories are the Honolulu, Atlanta and Boston Marathons. What's his best tip? Walk. That's right. In fact, Jeff says, "Thousands of time-goal-oriented veterans have improved by 10, 20, and over 30 minutes in marathons by taking walk breaks early and often to reach their goal in the race. You can easily spot these folks. They're the ones who are picking up speed during the last few miles when everyone else is slowing down."

Seventeen years ago, I stood in the middle of a rain-soaked football field in Austin, Texas and watched Jeff's theory being tested. For weeks she'd verbalize her goal: "One time around the track without stopping." What did she do when she didn't make it? She walked. And when she caught her breath, she'd run again. Turns out that long before my wife Loretta ever read a book by Jeff Galloway or listened to any of his seminars, she practiced what he preached. And I'll never forget the day she made it. We shouted for joy. (She eventually turned that one lap into 26.2 miles without stopping, several times a year.)

One time around the day. You may have just entered your cubicle, dropped the kids off at school or you're about to exercise. Whatever the case, the bible says we're to run the race and walk in love. So no matter what the world has stacked against you -- be encouraged -- it's a run/walk.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. You know, it was pretty neat for me to see Loretta meet her hero of the track. Do you see him giving her instruction? The moment made me think that when it comes to the faith, you and I have an opportunity to follow some heroes and maybe lead as one. So today, as you run your race, make it a point to stand in the middle of someone else's lap and shout for joy.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Shoulders & Legs

Many of our workouts are geared for the living room, but for those of you that are gym-goers, this one's for you. An odd combo you may not be used to involves training legs with shoulders. But we think you'll enjoy it as much as we do. You're going to hit legs first then attack shoulders. The top-to-bottom approach is so satisfying we think it just might become one of your go-to routines for two areas of your body that are important for different reasons.

With your shoulders, greater muscle tone goes a long way toward defining your torso's silhouette, giving the appearance of a smaller waist. But regular training of your shoulders is also a great way to bolster your resistance against injuries that can spring up suddenly with these complex, yet delicate joints. And training your legs intensely not only has tremendous athletic benefits -- those who are stronger on the squat tend to perform better on sprint and agility drills -- but these large muscles help your body to burn more total calories, both during and after your workouts.

Try this routine and post your responses in the comments below or at our forums.

Legs Squat (Smith or free-weight) - 4 x 6,8,10,12 Leg Press - 4 x 8,10,12,15 Romanian Deadlift - 4 x 10,12,15,20 Jump Squats - 4 x 20

Shoulders Overhead Press - 4 x 6,8,10,12 Upright Row - 4 x 8,10,12,15 Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 4 x 10,12,15,20

--Prior to training, perform a dynamic warm-up to raise your internal body temperature and to prepare your joints for the work ahead. Try 5-10 minutes of running in place, jumping jacks and jump rope, for example. Then, do a few light sets of the first exercise for each bodypart before your "working" sets.

NOTE: You'll notice that, on most exercises, the target number oreps increase with each successive set. This is called a reverse pyramid. This allows you to lift the heaviest weight early in the set, when your strength levels are highest. Then, as you fatigue, you can lower the weight to allow for more reps, which recruit additional muscle fibers and provide additional blood flow. This also adds volume to the workout, meaning more calories burned during your time in the gym. For each rep range listed, select a weight that brings about failure at that number. Failure is the point at which you can no longer complete clean repetitions on your own.

EXERCISE DESCRIPTIONS: To see some of these moves in action, visit exrx.net, one of the web's largest resources for exercise demos.

Who Wants the Ball?

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." --2 Timothy 1:7

Read: 2 Timothy 1

Imagine a coach before a big football game. The team has taken a knee and their helmets are off as they await the last few words of encouragement. The coach stands before them and says, "Now listen up, boys. We got here as a team and we'll finish as one. I believe in you. But...I gotta admit, I think the other coach is smarter than me, and the other kids, well, they're a lot bigger than you. But hey, it was a fun season. Try not to get hurt. Now, let's go!"

Not much confidence in those words, right? Aren't we glad that's not how God sends us off into the world to tackle our biggest foes -- foes of health issues, financial hardships, relationship battles and good old fear and doubt. On the contrary, if God had a blackboard, He'd outline our daily route...straight to the cross. His pre-game words would be the same today as they were yesterday: "Be strong and courageous, for I am with you wherever you go" (Josh 1:9) and "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Who wants the ball?

Question: The Bible is full of wonderful verses that remind us of God's strength, love and guidance. What is your favorite?

--Jimmy Peña

51 FAT-BURNING TIPS

You can find plenty of ways to fight bodyfat everyday here at PrayFit.com but this list, put out by Health.com and picked up by CNN, is easy one-stop shopping for those looking to get a little leaner in 2012. The full list, which includes tips on everything from rep pace to nutritional supplements, can be found by clicking here.

>> NEW! Have you visited the redesigned PrayFit Store? Click here to shop for books, DVDs, apparel and more with our retooled, user-friendly shopping cart.

>> GUEST SPEAKING: Want PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena to come to your church in 2012 to help lay the groundwork for your fitness ministry? E-mail us at info@prayfit.com for more details!

A SEA OF OBSTACLES

August 10, 2011Read: Exodus 14

"But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." --Exodus 14: 29

If you've been following us on PrayFit, I know it seems we can't get out of the desert, but let's rewind the tape. Moses was reluctant, but he led the Israelites out of bondage, motivated and on their way. Then came the Red Sea. Uh...Moses?

The reason we're stopping here at the banks is because we received countless e-mails on Monday expressing gratitude for the motivation, but that the workout of the week wasn't feasible and in some cases it was too difficult for valid reasons. Felt like you received encouragement yet immediately faced an impasse? Well, with water up to his knees, and Pharaoh breathing down his back, Moses could relate to you and me. We've got health issues chasing us but seemingly impossible challenges blocking our escape.

Friends, we have to remember that it's not about a particular workout or routine, but rather it's whatever you can do, enjoy doing, and can strive to improve upon from one day to the next. For some, that means a brisk walk around the block, for others it's pumping iron at the local gym. Truth is, we all have our own personal seas to cross, so stay encouraged. God is able, so stay available. No matter how you got to the water or how you plan to get to the other side, it's not impossible...the sea is crossable.

--J.P.

DID YOU KNOW?

"Researchers find that even a relatively small loss of weight can have a significant benefit in blood sugar control, regardless of how you lose the weight."

--Andrew J. Ahmann, M.D., medical director of the Oregon Health and Science University Diabetics Center

Source: "Sugar Nation" by Jeff O'Connell

FIRE...PROOF

March 30, 2011Read: Daniel 3

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feat in amazement." --Daniel 3:24

Three young men, when faced with a stubborn king's order to worship a pile of gold or else face a fiery furnace, jumped 1) at the chance to serve God, 2) out of the way of peer pressure and 3) in front of the crowd.

Three young men had a defining moment. When tested, they knew God was all they needed. And since God's favorite place to run is to our rescue, He jumped in the flame with them. And if their bold faith wasn't enough to convince anyone they were serious, the fourth image with them in the flame was. Can't you just see King Nebuchadnezzar counting his fingers and squinting his eyes? "Wait, one, two, thr..."

But that's what God does. He shows up and leaves the naysayers in shock and awe. So today, when we're faced with a challenge or golden opportunity, let's remember two things: God is with us, and the world is watching.

So on the count of three...

--J.P.

FIREPROOF HEALTH

Friends and family, the time for half-measured health is over. If you're fighting your bodyweight, blood pressure or other health issues, you're not alone in the fire. With God, it's possible, and we're praying for you and applauding your heart to serve. If you're not fighting but should be, it's time to jump. Health takes sacrifice. Health takes guts. And in this day and age, it takes those who are willing to set themselves apart from the crowd. The phrase "God looks at the heart" can no longer be used as an excuse to abuse the body. But there is no tomorrow. If it's right to jump, it's right to jump today. Let the onlookers watch in amazement at just how serious you are.

Here are some ways to jump in the fire: Turn off the TV, computer and phone and take a walk outside with your family. Get up 10 minutes earlier each day to do bodyweight exercises in your living room. Push away from the table just a few minutes early.

But these are merely suggestions. We have to decide what we'll sacrifice, what we're willing to change in order to be better stewards of the physical gifts we've been given. And since God looks at the heart, that's probably the first place we need to start.

COURAGE TO SHOW UP

January 4, 2011Read: John 14

"In my father's house are many rooms..." --John 14:2

I couldn't help but notice today--from Twitter to Facebook to chain emails--the avid exercisers mocking the new faces at the gym. And they all had the same, general theme: "Oh those resolutions. I wonder how long they will last..."

Aren't we glad God doesn't say the same about us? "Oh, here's Jimmy again. Same sin, same confession, I wonder how long this commitment will last."

If it helps, think of the new face at the gym like a visitor at a crowded church on Christmas day. Acknowledge them, welcome them and tell them you'll see them next time. You never know, your words of encouragement might be just what saves their lives. Remember, it took courage for them to show up. Now, it's your turn.

--J.P.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: HIIT PARADE

If you tackle both weights and cardio in the same workout, always do your cardio after your weights. Research shows that your resistance training will be hindered if preceded by intense cardio, however, your cardio will not be hindered if preceded by weights. Also, you burn more fat and calories if you follow your weight training with cardio. And remember, volumes of research show that high intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more fat and calories in less time than the slow, long bouts of traditional, steady-state cardio.

So if you need a tough HIIT session to burn some unwanted fat and calories after a tough weight workout, try this quick blast.

Warm-up: 3-5 minutes

Run for 1 minute

Rest for 1 minute

Run for 45 seconds

Rest for 45 seconds

Run for 30 seconds

Rest for 30 seconds

Run for 15 seconds

Rest for 15 seconds

--After 1 minute of rest, repeat the entire sequence backwards, starting with the 15-second intervals.

GOAL TENDING

December 28, 2010Read: 1 John 4

"You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." --1 John 4:4

Only days away from the dawn of a new year, and it's time to begin focusing on that list. The list. The list of resolutions that we're going to ask you to draw up. It's time to jot down the year's swing-for-the-fence agenda.

Each year, my wife and I write down our five personal goals and objectives for the year. It's arguably one of my favorite traditions. We witness them, sign them, and post them on the fridge -- visible, daily reminders of when the line was drawn in the sand.

Well, as we were driving home yesterday from Arizona, I was daydreaming about the next year -- things I want to accomplish, goals I want to chase. And at that very moment, we drove by a golf practice range. I remember thinking that I'm a much better golfer at a driving range than I am on an actual course. Why? Probably because I'm swinging without fear of failure. No adjacent fairways to avoid. Just wind up and try and kill it off the tee.

That's how I want to view this new year. This new year is a brand new course, a new challenge. God is my most valuable resource and with Him as my caddy, helping me make the right choices, I can't go wrong. He knows where the hazards are, how deep the sand is, when to lay up and when to pull out the driver. All I have to do is keep my eye on the ball.

What about you? What will you swing for next year? Have you made your list? Well, if you haven't or even if you have, spend some time these last few days thinking and praying about what you're going to tackle this year, because we're gonna ask you about them. And when fear and doubt creep in to discourage your list, just remember today's theme verse, see the ball and crush it.

--J.P.

FAITH AND FITNESS GOALS

We all have our sights set on particular objectives. From the faith side of things, some of us might want to study the book of Romans, chapter and verse. Maybe we are hoping to be faithful to daily prayers with our spouse or kids. And from a fitness standpoint, we might want to hit the gym at least three times a week, improve flexibility or run a marathon! Whatever your goals, we want you to begin praying about them, and before next Monday, we want you to have narrowed them down to a list you plan to attack. But this year, you'll have a community of believers to help hold you accountable, encouraging you and seeing you succeed both physically and spiritually. Your homework is as simple as it is critical: think and pray about what the Lord is placing on your heart for the upcoming year. And we'll see you tomorrow.

>> GET ACCOUNTABLE: Eager to signpost your goals for 2011? Drop them in the comments section below, or post them at the PrayFit Facebook page.

CHEER ME UP!

October 13, 2010Read: Hebrews 12

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." -- Hebrews 12:1

I know beyond a doubt that I'm not the first person to see heaven in a marathon, nor will I be the last. But standing among the countless other witnesses along the cement track just begged a comparison.

Maybe it was the blind runner holding on to his guide to get him through the miles. Or perhaps it was each coach strategically placed throughout the trail to encourage and motivate. (Each warrants a devotional all their own). But for me, it was written on a little girl's shirt as she anxiously awaited her daddy to come running. It simply said, "Cheer me up." Not "Cheer me on" or "Cheer me through" but "up". And with every passing group of runners, her shirt would come into my view. Not knowing the context, I dismissed it.

But it wasn't until the race was over, while I was waiting in the designated Family Reunion area, that her shirt made sense. We too are being encouraged each day. By those we know and those we don't, and even by those we can't even see. And someday, when our race is over and the good Lord calls us home, we'll reunite with loved ones and strangers who have been anxiously awaiting our arrival --cheering us up -- all along the way.

--J.P.

SO YOU WANNA RUN A MARATHON?

If you answered the above question "yes," PrayFit editorial director Eric Velazquez probably asked "Why?" with a look of confused pain on his face. But if all this talk of running has ignited a spark in your gut about taking on a marathon, we've done half our job. The other half would be for us to help you prepare. For that we look to our friends at Runner's World for some helpful training tips. If you're new to running, today's helpful tidbit is just for you.

BEGINNER: Who, exactly is a "beginner?" Well, if you've run 15 to 20 miles a week for at least six months, completed a 5K or 10K -- perhaps even something longer, you are a beginner. A marathon beginner can run five or six miles without collapsing afterward and want to gradually become a stronger runner with a marathon on the horizon.

>> The Plan. You're going to train just three to four days a week and gradually increase your weekly mileage from around 10-15 to 35-plus miles a week. The biggest key of all will be to gradually increase your mileage, especially that of your weekend long run. "The beginner needs to focus almost entirely on the long run," says anaerobic management coach Jon Sinclair (www.anaerobic.net), "but it's also good to throw in a little hill work and some aerobic intervals on alternate weeks to bolster your stamina and to liven up your training."

Lastly, we're going to have you running two low-key races -- such as a half marathon or 10K --  to get the feel of competition before the big day.

>> TOUGHEST WORKOUT EVER: Well, the contest isn't on anymore but we're still curious -- what was your toughest workout ever? If you continually challenge yourself, there's likely one or two workouts that stand out. Share here on our forums!