strength

Jars of Clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." --2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Read: 2 Corinthians 4

Today's verse is as motivating as it is convicting. Take a look again. Notice what he said. "Treasure in jars of clay". That verse is coming from a man who was given 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods five times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, and who would go without sleep, food and clothing; all because of his heart for churches, people, and the message of the inconceivable grace of Jesus.

Compare what Paul said to something I read on a picture quote recently where someone boastfully warns, "Before you judge me, step into my shoes and walk the life I'm living, and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you'll see how strong I really am." I admit, I'd love to hear Paul's graceful response to such a misstatement, because if the most influential man this side of Christ knew anything, He knew where his power and strength came from and from where it didn't.

But today's verse is also a comfort, not simply because of the physical metaphors of hardship, but for the reason to get up at all. "So that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." See -- to Paul -- surviving the shipwreck or sustaining the beatings weren't so much as death defying as they were life-revealing.

And to think, you're a jar of clay, too. So am I. A malleable, bendable, breakable, fillable and spillable jar of clay. I know, some days we feel more like a piñata than a Godly jar of clay. But if it's any help, just remember, if you hit a piñata hard enough, what happens? People get the treasure inside. And that's what I get from Paul. He bled Jesus. He bled the treasure.

So dear friends, let's invite others to step into our shoes and live the life we're living. And when they get as far as we're going, maybe, just maybe, they'll get to see exactly just how strong we're not.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: The jar of clay typing this sentence has been known to lose his wallet, his truck keys, and his health, to say nothing of his daily sins and filthy rags of good deeds. I've said it before and I'll say it again, getting up from a trial doesn't reveal our strength. The fall reveals that. Getting up reveals God's grace. What are you thanking God for today? Any praises? What has He given you the health, strength and grace to continue? As for me, I have one. You're reading it.

 

DEFINING INTENSITY

The fitness world continues to parade high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as one of the best ways to improve body composition, improve athleticism and increase general health markers. You may be thinking, "I'm not really capable of high-intensity training." Hey, we're right there with you. Even the youngest and healthiest among us get uncomfortable with the idea of pushing your physical limits. But here's the good news: intensity is relative. And you may be able to start reaping the benefits of this simple training principle today, no matter where you are on your health walk.

>> What is intensity?

BRING PRAYFIT TO YOUR TOWN

Churches. Community events. Schools. Corporate events. PrayFit is on the march in 2014 with its unchanging message; one of stewardship, of faith, of humility, of endurance. The team is actively booking spring and summer events! Reach out to us at info@prayfit.com for more details. As always, for churches and other non-profit events there is never a speaking fee. Talk to your pastors and leaders. Reach out to us and let's see health as a means of praise, together.

Life's Greatest Pleasure

"People will be lovers of themselves." --2 Timothy 3:2

Read: 2 Timothy 3

I happened to run across one of those motivational posters this weekend. You know, the kind with those powerful statements meant to inspire you to be all you can be. Well, even though it wasn't exactly new to me, this one caught my attention nonetheless. It said, "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can't." Evidently, people agreed because it had about a million "likes" underneath it. And why not? Who doesn't want to show the world? But then it dawned on me: How many times someone has actually said to me, "Jimmy, I don't think you can do that." How 'bout you?

You know, if there's one thing I've noticed about the fitness industry it's that there's a self-placed chip on its shoulder and the delusion that someone is daring to knock it off. For whatever reason, Godly confidence has been replaced with a harsh, in-your-face tone, backed up with visuals. That topic demands a week's worth of devotions on its own but let me take it further. Even if it was true -- even if the world placed bets against one's "ability" to be do something, in fitness or otherwise -- is proving the world wrong really life's greatest pleasure?

"If man says I can't, and God says I shouldn't, I'd rather show Him than show them."

The correct answer brings me a long way to this point, and one that we try and get across at PrayFit: Let's not take so much pleasure in doing what others say we can't. Let's instead take pleasure in doing what God says we can. If they intersect, great. If they don't, even better. Besides, if man says I can't, and God says I shouldn't, I'd rather show Him than show them. But God runs this body. If you're jumping through hoops of comparison or climbing mountains of ego, stop. Drench your day in the gospel. The taunts and dares around you are subject to Jesus.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Can you spend so much time in the gym or counting calories trying to "prove" the world wrong (whoever that is) that you actually miss what God is calling you to do with the health you're building? What if the world said, "Believer, I bet you can't invite a perfect stranger to church. I bet you can't give to the homeless person on the corner. I bet you can't be modest." If that's what the world said we couldn't do, I wonder if we'd try to prove it wrong. Would it help us if we realized those things are God's will already? Share your thoughts below.

ONE-MINUTE LESSON: CRUNCH Build abdominal strength by mastering this do-anywhere exercise

In 2014, many of us will be trying to get in better shape. We'll be training our bodies to lift more, run farther, swim faster, jump higher. But no matter the demand we are placing on these bodies, a strong set of abdominal muscles is of paramount importance but maybe for a different reason than you're thinking. Infusing your abs with strength and endurance helps you to do all of those other things that you were counting on doing better this year because all roads pass through your core. A fitter middle means greater success, literally, in everything else. The crunch is a great move to get you started. Here's how to get it right.

http://youtu.be/bSarSds5Whg

Crunch | Focus: Upper abs

Lie face-up on the floor with your hands cupped gently behind your head (do not pull on your neck). Keeping your knees bent and with your feet flat on the floor, crunch your upper body up until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Squeeze your abs then lower yourself back to the start and repeat.

TIP: New to crunches? Try performing 15 slow, controlled repetitions for 3-4 total sets. Rest 30 seconds between sets. If you're more advanced, try setting a clock by your work, starting at one minute of continuous crunches and adding 10 seconds every workout.

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The Home Of Your Dreams

"I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" --Psalm 122:1

Read: Psalm 122

It's the home of your dreams. White picket fence, freshly cut grass, backyard with a grill. It's that kind of home. When you close your eyes and grin, you're swinging on that front porch watching kids that miraculously -- and perhaps unfortunately -- have your nose. It's the home of your dreams. But despite your best offer, the price is too high. All the money you have can't justify the money you'd owe, so you're labeled unworthy; declined.

Say, ever been in a billionaire's bedroom? Ever walked the President's garden? Well, one thing is for certain: I will never own either. But while I've seen things that only a ton of money can buy, God is building us a mansion that no amount of money can. The offer was Jesus, the payment was His blood, and the asking price is faith. And if you've accepted, the key is yours. Interest paid. The title made to you. Home. The home of His dreams will someday be yours.

So as you and I strive for our little slice of Heaven on earth, be comforted when the world declines you. Because while He keeps asking, God knows what it's like for people to say His offer just isn't enough.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Sometimes the bodies that house our souls aren't exactly up to par. Whether by an unforeseen circumstance or perhaps neglect, you feel the Spirit grieve because of it. If so, we want to pray for you. What are your hurts today? What can we pray for? We want to know so we can lift you up. Either let us know or simply say, "Unspoken" and we promise to pray.

HOLY YOGA Many of you know that I've been through some health issues over the course of the last few years. Well, part of my physical therapy for both my cervical replacement and my recent lumbar spinal fusion incorporated some doctor-prescribed/approved yoga moves. Of course, my yoga was limited and supervised, but even as I came home and began my solo treatment, the stretching and strength-building benefits of yoga have remained part of my repertoire.

We get plenty of emails and requests for yoga here at PrayFit, but admittedly, we stay in our lane and leave yoga to the experts. But if you are interested in trying yoga, I urge you to try yoga...BUT from a Christian standpoint. There is one company that I am honored to share with you. Holy Yoga, led by our friend Brooke Boon, is a coast-to-coast and worldwide phenomenon that has nestled and delivered yoga within the Gospel. Beginning today and as we push forward, anything yoga-related will come from our friends at Holy Yoga. If you already love yoga or you're simply interested in learning more, I sincerely urge you to learn from Brooke and her staff.

Check back with us throughout the week as we lean on Brooke to bring you some solid, foundational points to consider for this body-and-soul strengthening practice.

>> To read ahead in the text, visit Holy Yoga's home page by clicking here!

PRAYFIT: WHO WE ARE

If you're reading this, we're blessed to have you. Whether you're a longtime reader of the faith and fitness writings we've been posting here since 2009 or a newbie who stumbled upon us in a friend's Facebook news feed, we take our commitment to you very seriously. We hope that you'll find the inspiration and practical tools necessary to become a better steward of your health.

Newcomer or not, we hope you'll take a second to read the broad strokes on who we are, what we believe and what our mission is. Our prayer is that the soul of PrayFit speaks to yours...

>> WHAT IS PRAYFIT ALL ABOUT?

SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" faith and fitness at your leisure. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community in 2014! Facebook HeavenUp Twitter Instagram YouTube

SIGN UP FOR THE DAILY!

Thousands of people have chosen to receive the PrayFit Daily in their inboxes each morning. If you haven't signed up for this complimentary service already, simply click the links provided here. Click, type, send -- it could be the most rewarding 30 seconds you spend on the computer this morning! And if you want to help us go viral with this sign-up drive -- if you want to help us continue our faith-and-fitness revival -- you can do so by sending friends this link:

SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/cSd8tp

 

A Healthy Fear

"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God..." --1 Peter 2:17

Read: 1 Peter 2

You may have anticipated today's entry -- for the other shoe to drop. Well, you'd be right, because there is a healthy kind of fear. Back in my heavy lifting days, after the warm-up and light sets, we'd gradually load more and more plates to the bar. As I wrapped my wrists and knees for the heavy stuff, the fire of fear would build inside me.

By the time I put my belt on and chalked-up, it was an inferno. A slap across my face and a deep inhale through the nose and I'd get under the bar for battle. Indeed, I respected the bar too much not to respect it. Plainly said, fear dictated my posture for the moment, kept me sharp, alert, strong. Fear was a friend.

When the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, it's not referring to a scary fear -- it's talking about a reverence, an awe, a holy respect that brings wisdom. When we seek Him daily in prayer and Bible study, we gain wisdom from a love born through awesome fear. As Christians with a mind for health, our fear of the Lord should dictate our posture -- first in our kneeling and then in how we conduct ourselves. Our fear of the Lord is what separates us from other fitness enthusiasts or athletes. We respect Him too much not to. Fear keeps us sharp, alert, strong. Make no mistake, fear is a friend.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: How else can fear be healthy? What do we fear more, not getting the approval and applause of others or not having God's approval? Is our life a posture that proves it?

 

Start Pulling

I'll never forget it. I was 19; the newest member of a very small band of brothers. We weren't an official group on the Baylor University campus, by any means, these "Russell Rats." We had no membership roster, no board of directors or rules and regulations to speak of, but we were very exclusive. And although we weren't organized, we did pay our dues -- dues of a different kind that were collected daily. As far as acceptance into the group, well, it just happened. Call it a nonverbal recognition of pure heart. If you had it, you were in. And rather than Greek letters across our chest, we had chalk and sweat across our backs. There was no mistaking our crew.

In the late 80s, a small family of guys came one by one into the best (and only) fitness center on campus, Russell Gymnasium. The gym itself was actually a corner hole-in-the-wall within a bigger auditorium of basketball courts, with a two-tone, green concrete wall separating the outdated Universal equipment and rusty dumbbells from the courts next door.

Well, one sunny Waco afternoon, at a campus-wide celebration called Diadeloso (Day of the Bear), the group decided to enter itself into the annual tug-of-war competition. We wanted nothing more than to show the fraternities what real strength felt like. After a lot of hooplah, we marched -- in slow motion if I recall -- onto the sand. We could hear the audible gasp from the opposition. We nodded to one another with pre-victory smiles. After all, not only were we obviously strong, we had ourselves a plan. We reasoned that because we outweighed the competition, only half the team would pull when the whistle blew. And when one of us gave the signal, the rest of us would begin pulling. Trust me. We had it covered.

Well, we found our grip as our competition found theirs. I remember they were a preppy bunch. Handsome. But no doubt mismatched. We did our best not to giggle. The referee raised his hand to alert the start of the match and the whistle blew. And?!.....We got crushed. Within 20 seconds, we were pulled across the line. It honestly felt as if the rope was somehow cleverly tied to an F-150. What happened you ask? Well, a couple things actually. First, they had seven guys and we had six. Completely fair because the only limit was total weight, but an extra pair of arms pays off come to find out. But I think we lost miserably because we were overly confident and planned poorly.

Why the long stroll down memory lane? Well, I'll be a special guest at Baylor University this November, speaking to students and greeting faculty. And if I learned anything that day as I lay face down, swallowing dirt and pride, it's that we can never underestimate the enemy in life, and we can't wait to start pulling. Plainly said, we have to give it all we have, never saving anything for the second half, the second set, the climb down, or the swim back. We can't wait to share Christ, visit the widow, give to the needy. The fact that you're reading and I'm typing means we're knee deep in sand and it's quick.

Friends, we have to be humble constantly and plan wisely. In every area of life, be it with quiet times, workouts, relationships, school, work...a humble heart and wisdom will please God every time. So hang on tight. And when the sun comes up and you've given God your day, just start pulling.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Four years later, I led a team of seven onto the sand. We won every match but the last one; to a team of eight.

For Discussion: Are you waiting to pull with your life? Your quiet times with the Lord? Your health? If I can help you start pulling, talk to me. I want to help. And if you have similar memories where you were humbled, please share!

RECOVER WITH R.I.C.E. When you start a workout program or return to activity after a long layoff, it's not uncommon to suffer a few aches and pains. Muscles strain, ligaments groan and pain springs up in places that you wouldn't expect. In most cases, these injuries are minor and can be treated at home with a few easy steps. So before you go schedule an appointment with your general health practitioner, take stock of this four-step process.

>> 4 Ways to Treat Soft-Tissue Injuries at Home

Live, Eat and Sleep

There he is. He's been up all night. If you've been with us the last couple of days, you know what he's writing and to whom. He's almost to the end of one of his letters. The rhythmic regularity of the occasional drop of water echoes off the cold walls of the prison, and the light of the lamp is now competing with the small ray coming from a window near the ceiling. Staring at the new patch of light on the floor, he finishes this sentence. "...training it to do what it should."

Paul knew that athletes live, eat and sleep their sport. He understood the rigors, the devotion, the sacrifices, and the quest to be the one to win. If you're a competitive runner, he could've easily been describing you. That up-at-dawn discipline inside you? The dedication toward winning your next race? Paul got it.

But unlike the runner who trains for a race, we train during one. We train daily and compete daily, don't we? So with that in mind, notice carefully his choice of words. Training (a process) it (the body) to do (to act, proceed) what it should (the right thing)Paul wants us to train our eyes to notice the lonely, our ears to hear the helpless, and to deny the flesh. We're to run to Christ, run away from sin, run to those in need, and to do it all the time.

And he knew that in order for us to do that, we have to live, eat and sleep the Word of God. You know, like athletes. The kind that -- like Paul -- train to win.

--Jimmy Peña

For Discussion: Tomorrow we'll finish our study, but as you may have realized, Paul isn't talking about a concern for how the body looks, but he's claiming the kind of spiritual discipline in his life that athletes have in their sport. Imagine how equipped spiritually we would be if we studied God's word as much as we trained physically. That's what Paul is talking about. Are we training to win?

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EXERCISE IN FOCUS: Bodyweight Squat

Many of our workouts here at PrayFit.com revolve around bodyweight training. Why? The reasons are numerous but this form of resistance training can be done by practically anyone, anywhere and at anytime -- no equipment or expensive gym membership necessary. But to get the most out of these exercises, it's important to become a student -- then a master -- of the fundamentals. Today, we take a look at the best lower-body exercise around: the squat.

TARGET MUSCLES: Quads, glutes, hamstrings

EXECUTION: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, a light bend in your knees and your toes turned out slightly. Keeping your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach a 90-degree angle, then forcefully drive through your heels, extending at your hips and knees until you arrive at the standing position.

>> For more exercise descriptions and videos, click here.

>> Looking for a workout to develop your squat proficiency? Try one of the many options available at our Fitness page.

Your Top Three

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." --1 Thessalonians 5:18

Read: 1 Thessalonians 5

Do you like lists? I love lists. My wife and I can be on our daily walk, and all I have to say to her is, "Give me your top three" and she knows I'm asking her to name me the three people she would love to have over for dinner. Without hesitation, Dr. Charles Stanley, Jimmy Fallon and Savannah Guthrie are scooting their chairs under our table. We've done things like that for years. And don't get me started about New Year's resolutions. We've saved every list of resolutions for 18 years. Not only that, we witness, sign and ratify them. (I wish I were kidding). What can I say? I love lists. Especially thankful ones.

Do you have one? A list of things so far this year of which you're the most thankful? Could be your relationship with the Lord, or a new job, or maybe your health has improved. Take a minute to think of, or better yet, jot some things down. Use our comment section if you'd be so bold. What are you the most thankful for as we start a new week? Give me your top three.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. In case you were wondering about my top three for dinner: Max Lucado, Brian Williams, and of course, Derek Jeter. Let's eat.

dumbbellsWORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Dumbbell Complex

Dumbbells are some of the best fitness equipment ever invented. Simple and effective, dumbbells can help you to recruit additional muscle by forcing your body to activate stabilizers to balance your body during exercise. They can also be used to develop tremendous strength and to burn tons of fat. Dumbbells are just plain good for ya. One way to put them to work for you is via complex training, which calls for you to use the same set of dumbbells for multiple exercises. Click below for more detail on complex training and a head-to-toe workout to get you started.

>> DUMBBELL COMPLEX - CLICK HERE

Two Tributes

"Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" --Luke 9:23

Read: Luke 9

Undeniably effective for building strength and changing the way your body looks, feels and performs, the squat also happens to be remarkably humbling. As I was looking at today's scheduled workout, I started to look for excuses to avoid my date with the barbell, but then it hit me: I should be thankful I can squat at all.

You see, while I was here racking my head for reasons to avoid this workout, a close friend of mine was struggling with a physical ailment, longing for the day when he could once again test his mettle in the squat or any kind of physical fitness for that matter. He would do anything to get under that bar, to feel the weight pressing him into the floor, to tremble through the uncertain descent that skilled squatters so willingly endure -- and to rise again.

This friend of mine who would give anything to trade places with me on my toughest training day of the week reminds me of another Who traded places with me for all my days to come -- of One who willingly carried the crushing weight of the cross and a certain descent into the tomb, only to rise again.

So today, tossing aside my fears and hesitations, I paid physical tribute to two friends. For one, I squatted. And for the other, I knelt.

--Eric Velazquez

PRAYER REQUEST: This morning, as most of you read this, PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña will be undergoing surgery on his lumbar spine. We ask that you join the rest of our family in praying for him.

Lord, we thank you for the miracles that are our bodies. While we know that our bodies won't last Heaven, we pray that you would help us to be good stewards of our health however long we have on earth. This morning, Father, we pray for Jimmy -- we pray that You would ease his anxiety and fortify his body and mind for the procedure that he is to endure. We pray for his physicians -- we pray that you would bless them with wisdom, discernment and steady hands as they work to repair Jimmy's spine. Finally, we pray for his wife, Loretta -- we pray that you would fill her with courage, energy and her usual, exceptional strength as a woman of God. Lord, we know that You are in control and that you will be by His side throughout it all. We ask that You would whisper your presence into his heart and that you would instill in him a courageous, unwavering trust in knowing that the doctor's hands are in Yours. Lord, today we pray for the body of the man who has made a ministry out of helping so many others take care of theirs. In Your name we pray...amen.

>> Share your own prayers and thoughts for Jimmy below, if you'd like, or drop him a personal message at jimmy@prayfit.com. Thank you for your support!

>> Next week, May 20-24, PrayFit will be going on temporary hiatus, with no new daily devotions or health content being posted to the site. We will be taking the week to commit to prayer for Jimmy's recovery. You can still find tons of valuable content throughout the site (see links below) and can expect delivery of the PrayFit Daily to resume Monday, May 27.

Training - Workouts, training tips and health news

Nutrition - Recipes, eating strategies, weight loss advice

Devotions - You can search our entire library of devotions here

Listen - You can hear select devotions read by Jimmy here

Here I Am To Worship

"I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart." --Psalm 138:1

Read: Psalm 138

Here I am to worship. If it's been a while since you've been to the gym, whisper it to the Lord as you open that door. If you're starting to walk after work with your spouse, pray it together as you take that step. Maybe you're about to take a swim, go for a jog or start your at-home DVD. Whatever the case, say it: Here I am to worship.

And as you do, remember -- it's not about the mirror, or lower bodyfat, or the muscle. Those things may happen, they may not. If they do, consider them gifts of obedience and blessings of diligence. But we believe it warms God's heart when we take care of ours. So go ahead. Lift, run, walk, swim, stretch. Have church. After all, you are a temple.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Push-Up Practice The push-up is one of the most fundamental exercises you can build into your program for increasing upper body strength. But not everyone can hit the deck and give us 50. No matter where you are on the push-up power continuum, this scaled workout will allow you get better at it...fast.

>> Click here for the workout.

Move With Your Life

"For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." --James 2:26

Read: James 2

How many times have we asked God to move in our lives? I wonder if it even comes close to the number of times He's asked us to move with ours. Follow me through the day: The homeless beggar outside the supermarket; the lonely neighbor nobody ever seems to talk to; the teacher everybody gossips about. How many times a day does God ask us to move with our lives?

Same goes with our bodies. You may find yourself asking the Lord for the strength to stick with better food choices or for motivation to begin an exercise plan. But friends, if you know Him, He's made His move. The real question is whether the miracle He's done in your heart has reached your feet.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Fighter Conditioning

You may not have any interest in the Sweet Science, but the fact remains that boxers are some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet. They have to be. The whole-body demand of jabbing, slipping, bobbing and weaving for any length of time, over time, makes them stronger, leaner and tougher than those who practice other sports. PrayFit partner and endorser Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero boasts a physique that is equal parts form and function from all of his years spent in the gym. But if you don’t have the dough, or desire, to dive headlong into a franchise boxing gym membership, you can use this 12-minute, at-home solution to start building a pugilistic physique.

>> CLICK HERE FOR THE WORKOUT

"Being a big believer in Jesus Christ, PrayFit gets me on track to start my day off in the right direction.  In boxing there is no room for error. You have to be not only be physically prepared but spiritually strong as well." — Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, 6-Time Boxing World Champion

>> Be sure to watch Robert Guerrero take on pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather on May 4! Keep visiting here for more information on the fight, or visit the official fight site here.

Miracle. Grow.

"'I tell you,' he replied, 'If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." --Luke 19:40

Read: Luke 19

I know I'm getting older and much more sentimental because few things in life nowadays are as great as overhearing my wife talking to her plants. Can you relate? Her voice changes in pitch as she compliments and encourages. She apologizes to those not getting enough sun and to those getting too much. Supplying all that love simply brings her pleasure.

I like to think about how sentimental God must be. He cares for us, talks to us, feeds us and protects us. We're alive simply for His pleasure, and He loves to watch us grow. But the cool thing is, we're the part of His creation designed to thank and praise Him in return. And friends, our approach to health is an act of stewardship, and our fragile bodies are a means to praise Him and serve others; music to His ears. With today's verse in mind, let this be another day we keep rocks quiet. After all, if we find fulfillment when the things we love respond, just imagine God, seeing His little miracles grow.

--Jimmy Peña

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Static Strength

In breaking from the more dynamic, high-energy workouts that usually appear here on Mondays, this week's workout is a bit static...literally. We're going to take one exercise which doesn't allow you to move whatsoever. The stationary wall squat is an isometric (or static) exercise that works to strengthen your entire lower body (quads, glutes, hamstrings), all without movement.

>> Click here for a detailed explanation and the protocols for the workout.

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>> SOCIAL NETWORKS: Now you can "like," "join," "tweet" and "watch" PrayFit. Click the links below to get plugged in with the rest of the PrayFit community. Facebook HeavenUp Twitter YouTube

Porch with a View

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will But not a single sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father?" --Matthew 10:29

Read: Matthew 10

BirdhouseSpent Easter at home. It's not that we didn't have anywhere to go after church but we just had too many reasons to stay. A day that began with a good ballgame and a brand new book found me on the same front porch where I started and finished both. And speaking of the porch, I spent hours watching a little family of birds take up residence in a tree just steps from our door. What can I say? It was been a perfect day. Where's Norman Rockwell when you need him?

Moments like these remind me how great God's love is. He doesn't miss a chance to delight in you and me. He's crazy about us, and He's near.

Which brings me back to those birds. They're living in a birdhouse we bought years ago, long before they were born. A small, yellow, wooden birdhouse with a greenish-brown roof and a "Bless This Nest" emblem under the tiny opening. (Let me see if I can get a good pic of it...got it. There he is.) Little do they realize, but their new home was placed so close to ours on purpose -- simply to bring us joy as we watch them live. You know, if Heaven has a porch, I bet God goes there a lot, just to enjoy the view up close. I like to think He's there right now, watching what He loves best. So God...please bless this nest.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Oh, the little guy has been working so hard. Going and coming with little twigs. Building and building. I'm mesmerized. Imagine if we find such joy watching a sparrow live and work... Folks, we're praying for you and your little nest. If we can pray specifically about something or if you want to simply say "Unspoken Request," write it in the comments section, and we promise to pray for you.

TRAINING TIP: Use Your Imagination

Compound pulling exercises -- moves like pulldowns, pull-ups and rows in which you move at multiple joints -- are great for building strength in your back but they can be tough to master. Here's how to use a little brain power to boost the effectiveness of these moves in your next workout.

>> CLICK HERE: Build a stronger back with this strategy...

>> For more exercise tips and workouts, visit our fitness page by clicking here.

Opening Day

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." --Romans 8:1

Read: Romans 8

Yep, I'm too predictable aren't I? For me, today marks the beginning of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Of course, many of you know we're thrilled that the Boys of Summer have taken the field. In fact, I'm not kidding when I say I've been whistling "Take me out to the ballgame" a lot lately. (And maybe now so are you.)

But as I'll watch my beloved Yankees take the field today, it occurs to me that Opening Day can teach us a lot about grace. Reason being, right before player steps into the batter's box, each person's average on the screen will be .000 -- a clean slate. Reverend Scotty Smith says, "Jesus didn't just die to give us a clean slate, but to give us His righteousness." Take a swing at that for a second.

You know, each morning you and I step up to the plate ready to swing away at whatever the day throws at us. Thankfully, no matter how many strikeouts we had yesterday, God's mercy is new with each plate appearance. And with Easter fast-approaching, it feels so appropriate, no? Jesus conquered death so we can have life; an abundant life with no record of wrongs. When Jesus rose from the grave, He gave us every reason we need to look alive. You know, I'm now whistling a medley. "Take me out to the ballgame"...because I know "He Lives".

--Jimmy Peña

FAREWELL to THE CAPTAIN Today will be my favorite athlete of all-time, Derek Jeter's, last first bat of the season. I won't try to explain what it means to me, but I will express this. Many of the things I'm doing at PrayFit may very well be my last. I'm not sure - neither are you - of how many at-bats we have left. And much like Jeter demonstrates in this picture, I thank the Lord everyday for inspiring PrayFit. Maybe you're saying the same thing about a dream you're living. If so, here's a virtual fist-bump from me to you. Here's to a new day, a new season, a new opportunity to swing away.

The Captain

A Strong Church

"For physical training is of some value, but training in godliness has value now and in the life to come." --1 Timothy 4:8

Read: 1 Timothy 4

Many of you know how much I appreciate Dr. Charles Stanley of First Baptist, Atlanta. And outside of my sweet Brother Henry Powell who led me to Jesus, I consider Dr. Stanley a trusted pastor and mentor. Well, I had the pleasure of visiting his church again last Sunday. His topic: What makes a strong church? I grinned with anticipation in my chair, because I like it when he gets practical. And while I won't list all of the qualities he mentioned, I wanted to share a few.

Doctrinally sound. He said that if the church neglects the Word of God, we're weak.

Faith beneath the surface. He said that every Sunday in a room below the pulpit, a group of men pray for him and for the audience.

Genuine, committed and organized. Genuine love for each member, committed to the purpose of spreading the Gospel, and practically organized to deliver the message.

As he finished preaching, he asked two questions: "What are you doing to contribute to the strength of your church?" and "If others followed your pattern, will the church be strong?"

And now you know why I was grinning. Because I believe that our lives, our bodies and overall health could benefit greatly if we treated them like a church. If you're with me say "Amen." Consider the practical parallels.

1. If we neglect the Word each day, we are absolutely weak. Our might is not in our muscle or bone, but in our spirit. 2. Without faith beneath the surface, there is no service. Pretty is as pretty does. 3. With a genuine, committed and organized approach to honoring the body that God so lovingly designed, we can be even more effective in serving others with our God-given message.

And so humbly, if you would allow me to do as Dr. Stanley did and ask you two questions: What are you doing to contribute to the strength of your church? And if others followed your pattern, would their church be strong?

–Jimmy Peña

Commit: Spend 10 minutes each day reading God's word and praying. Then and only then, pursue physical goals. Will you make this commitment?

WORKING OUT AT HOME

Convenience of exercise is one of the greatest determining factors in program adherence. In other words, the easier a workout is to get in, the less likely you will be to skip it. For a great many people, home workouts are best. Team PrayFit's two workout DVDs provide challenging, results-driven, at-home workouts that are guaranteed to help you build a stronger, healthier body -- without having to venture out to a franchise gym. So far, the reviews on our latest DVD -- the PrayFit 33-Day Body Toning System -- are outstanding! Click here to read what others are saying! For a sneak peek at what you can expect in our newest offering, click the video player below. To order now, click here.

I'm His Resume

"By this all men will know that you're my disciples, that you have love for one another." --John 13:35

Read: John 13

Yesterday I worked on a resume. Some of you may know, but trying to put a life of work on a sheet of paper is no easy task. The objective, the history, the qualifications, all to make sure your best foot is forward and in view. Here I am! This is what I've done! But as I was working on it, I knew it didn't even come close to capturing his worth. See, it wasn't my resume, it was my Dad's.

And while his job history in the Navy and then in private business is impressive, I'm his resume. My brother is his resume. My mom, his wife of almost 50 years is his resume. I wish I could call prospective employers and tell them that we are who we are today because of who he is and what he's done. What a conviction to try and convince someone to give your sweet Dad a chance.

You know, our lives say a lot to the world about our Father. I know you feel the same, but I want nothing more than to be a living resume for my Jesus. You and I may be the only Jesus someone ever sees; the only believers someone will ever come into contact with. They may be famous, popular or simply a next door neighbor, searching for the truth. The truth is, Jesus died and rose again so that you and I may have an abundant life and eternity with Him. Because of that, I want the way I talk, think, act and live to be such a strong testimony to those around me that they have no other choice than to take a good, long look at this Jesus we call the Savior. And when they see us, hear us, and watch us, may they pause long enough to give Him a chance.

--Jimmy Peña

TRAINING TIP: Compound Moves

The three most popular, widely-used lifts in the gym are the bench press, deadlift and squat. Referred to as “The Big Three,” these moves fall into a category of exercises called compound, or multi-joint, lifts. These exercises require movement at more than one joint, which means that more total muscles have to get involved to complete each rep. And the more muscle you work, the more muscle and strength you stand to gain. As a bonus, the more muscle you recruit on a given exercise, the more calories you burn. Finally, any measure of muscle gain will improve your metabolism since muscle is calorie-eating tissue.

>> Learn how compound moves can be your ticket to a healthier body.

I'm Weak. He's Strong.

"For by grace you have been saved and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." --Ephesians 2:8-9

Read: Ephesians 2 It just never seems to end, does it? This pursuit of health. It's another day in the gym, looking at that same row of dumbbells. Or maybe it's walking another lap around the familiar track with the expected turns. Either way, picking up the weight or the pace are the keys to change, improvement or even maintenance. More...again. Again, some more. Besides, you're only as good as your last workout, so you huff and puff...(rough). Folks, aren't we glad Heaven doesn't require the same?

Truly, if our ability was required for Heaven, we'd be in bad shape. Let's face it, we're just not strong enough, fast enough, good enough. Fortunately, Jesus lifted our heaviest burden and walked the steepest hill. We can stop fighting a fight He's already won. In fact, the next time you're struggling to lift yesterday's weight with a body designed to weaken, or you're trying to keep your previous pace with steadily slowing legs, take a second and smile. Just grin and shake your head. Let it remind you of just how small and weak you are, and just how big and able He is. I admit, whenever I do that, I seem to be a little stronger and a little bit faster. I don't know. Maybe it's because I realize He's put me in charge of something that requires my effort.

--Jimmy Peña

NUTRITION: HIDDEN HOLIDAY DANGERS

If you've hit the malls recently, then you know...nutritional indulgence isn't that difficult to find. Click here to read our list of easy tips that you can build into your Christmas shopping plans in order to keep yourself in the best shape possible heading into 2013.

>> READ: Holiday Nutrition Do's and Don'ts

>> STOCKING STUFFERS: In case you missed it, PrayFit unveiled a new online store earlier this month, replete with stylish new apparel, DVDs and more. Give it a gander and round out your gifts shopping with a few clicks of the mouse today! Plant your first click here: PRAYFIT ONLINE STORE

Move With Your Life

"For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." --James 2:26

Read: James 2

How many times have we asked God to move in our lives? I wonder if it even comes close to the number of times He's asked us to move "with" our lives. Follow me through the day: The homeless beggar outside the supermarket. The lonely neighbor who will be alone again on Thanksgiving. The teacher everybody gossips about. How many times a day does God ask us to move with our lives?

Same goes with our bodies. You may find yourself asking the Lord for the strength to stick with better food choices or for motivation to begin an exercise plan. But friends, if you know Him, He's made His move. The real question is whether the miracle He's done in your heart has reached your feet.

--Jimmy Peña

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Mango-Almond Muesli

Protein for muscle repair and upkeep. Slow-digesting carbs for fuel. Cinnamon to regulate blood sugar levels. Calcium for bone health. Add a potent dose of Vitamin C and this shapes up to be pretty close to perfection when it comes to snack foods. This eight-serving recipe stores well and is ideal for a grab-and-go breakfast or a high-protein snack.

Ingredients: 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats 1 cup plain non-fat yogurt ½ cup chopped mango 12 almonds, chopped ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl or food storage container. Refrigerate overnight. Cut into 8 equal squares.

Nutrition Facts: 374 calories, 55g carbohydrate, 21g protein, 9g fat (1g saturated), 192mg sodium, 5mg cholesterol, 6g fiber. Also an excellent source of calcium and Vitamin C.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

Easy To Miss

"He asked them, 'What are you discussing together as you walk along?'"  --Luke 24:17

Read: Luke 24

I can just imagine those two disciples walking toward Emmaus together. It was late in the day, their heads hung low as they kicked up dust with each reminiscent step. After minutes of silence, one would remember something Jesus said, bringing a grin to both their faces. After all, these two heard and saw things not written in the bible.

After another quiet mile or so, the other would bring up "that time when," and the two would smile, shake their heads, laugh and cry. Who would blame them? They missed their friend. Not the miracle maker or the water-walker, but just Jesus. The same Jesus who would tell a good joke at night, sending all the guys to bed laughing. And the same Jesus that listened to their stories with the anticipation of one who didn't already know the ending. Jesus was easy to miss.

Even when He was walking right next to you.

--Jimmy Peña

Friday Discussion: Did you see Jesus this week? Maybe in the doctor that gave you the news of your blood sugar? Perhaps it was the homeless man who wanted nothing more than for you to look him in the eye? Friends, Jesus may not walk beside us like He did on the road to Emmaus, but He walks among us. Whether in school, work or the gym, let's remind each other not to miss Him, because it's easy to do.

From the editors: Thankful to all of you for your faithfulness to PrayFit. You bless us. In Jesus' name, we train. Have a good weekend.

PRAYFIT TV Check out and share this inspiring video about the transformative power physical stewardship

Jimmy Peña's message of "Life is not about the body, but health is a means of praise" is being well-received by congregations around the country. His story-telling approach to how a healthy body can strengthen the body of Christ and inspire abundant living is a message you don't want to miss.

>> For ministry assistance or to get Jimmy out to your church, write us at info@prayfit.com.

Perspective: Salvation

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord." --Jeremiah 17:7

Read: Jeremiah 17

It seems like the latest and greatest kids movies these days are all in 3D. Well, if you are an older child that might be great news, but for the younger ones, it can be a tricky thing to understand the concept that you must wear the proper glasses in order to fully experience the intended effects of the 3D movie. Well, my youngest son is not a big fan of the movie glasses and insists on watching without them. We show up on time, perfect seats, bag of popcorn and ready to go. We are all set except without the glasses, the screen is pretty much a colorful blur.

As a mother, this just kills me because I want the best for him, I want him to experience every amazing effect of the movie and not miss a single detail. Yet, as the third child (and a lot like his mom), he is stubborn and he thinks he knows best. So while my other two children are sitting still, 3D glasses on and fully engaged in the movie, my youngest is distracted and restless.

I often wonder if this is how Jesus feels about us. He wants the absolute best for our lives and he offers us the only tool we need: salvation. Some of us are just too stubborn to accept the offer because we think we know best. Until we give up ourselves and fully commit our hearts and lives to Jesus, we will continue seeing and living a flat, one-dimensional life that will never satisfy. We might have our perfect seats and our popcorn ready but until we get the proper perspective -- seeing life through the lens of salvation, living our lives with Jesus, through Jesus -- we aren't really seeing anything at all.

--Allison Earnst

PrayFit's contributing writer, Allison Earnst, is a fitness expert, motivator, competitor and mother of three. She's been featured in numerous magazines including FitParent, Natural Muscle and Oxygen magazine. She has shared her fitness story on Good Morning America, Extra TV and Lifetime's "The Balancing Act." You can visit her blog by clicking here.

FITSTAT: PILATES

Do you do pilates? If so, you are doing your midsection a considerable favor. Pilates, which many dismiss as “for women only” can pay big dividends, particularly when it comes to your abs. Research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that 36 weeks of pilates training improved the volume of muscle fiber in the rectus abdominis by 21%. And a stronger, thicker abdominal wall means better back support, greater core stability and a midsection worth showing off.

SHOP: Looking to gear up with some PrayFit apparel or wristbands? Click here.

Rate of Failure

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" — Galatians 2:21

Read: Galatians 2

Much is made of the failure rate in baseball.  A successful hitter, it is said, fails to get a hit seven out of every 10 trips to the plate. Despite this otherwise abysmal statistic, those who perform up to such a strict standard are held in high regard. The familiar sound of bat meeting ball is met by a chorus of applause, the hitter greeted by high fives and offered hands of affirmation by teammates upon his return to the dugout. The spoils of a job well done.

In our walks with God, the only measure of success -- the perfection of Christ -- makes failure a certainty. More often than not, despite our best efforts, we will swing and miss at opportunities to glorify God in how we live, work and play. Still, despite no quantifiable measure of achievement and no earthly rewards to be won, we test ourselves, training for a contest in which the outcome has already been determined. Because we know that someday, no matter our rate of failure, we too will be greeted -- not by the roar of the crowd but by choirs of angels. The spoils of a life redeemed by grace.

--Eric Velazquez

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: 10-MINUTE ABS Get your midsection stronger and leaner in 10 minutes...flat

No, a flat midsection is not a prerequisite for membership in the PrayFit Nation. But there's no denying the importance of having a strong, well-conditioned core. It can bolster your lower back against injury, improve balance and strength and performance on every other exercise. But you don't need to take forever training them. The circuit-style workout below will help you hit every area of your abdomen, including the deep-lying transverse abdominis, which can have a drastic impact on how flat your belly appears. Find out more by clicking here:

>> ABS IN 10 - SUPER CIRCUIT