Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Personal Journal Entry

This has been a long time in coming. I have allowed too many excuses to keep me from posting a blog in a while, but there are too many promises left unfulfilled to let this go another day. So, This is the post I promised to do in my last one about journaling. I picked a journal entry that I did before writing that post so that it will be a genuine journal entry and not just something that I wrote with this in mind. I want you to see what a journal entry looks like for me. With that in mind I'm just going to give you exactly what is in my journal (of course I will correct any misspellings and grammatical errors that I see) there is no fluff here. Please note that I have journal entries that are much more personal and intimate but I don't feel that it is appropriate to share these. Ok, enough with qualifications! Let's just get on with the journal entry all ready. The actual journal entries are in italics.

You will remember that in my last blog I mentioned that I use the SOAP method. This first section is the "S" section and is where I write the scripture verse that stood out to me and where I felt that God was speaking to me. It also has a big circled "S" in the margin.

I Chronicles 28:9 - And you my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.

This next section is the "O" section and is where I write my observations about the verse that I wrote down and has a big circled "O" in the margin. NOTE: the verse is always taken in context with all the surrounding scripture. Taking Scripture out of context is a recipe for disaster.

First, I see here that God searches & knows every motive. Even when my heart deceives me & my motives are not as pure as I think they are, God knows the truth. God cannot be tricked or manipulated. He knows my true intention. Next, is a great promise. God says, "Seek Me!" At the same time He says, "You will find Me, when you seek Me." Combining the two I see that God says, "If you seek Me; (not what I can do for you, not My blessing on your agenda, not My intervention when you're in trouble but,) when you seek ME with a heart set on finding Me & Me alone, you will find Me and have a relationship with the One True Living God."

The third section is the "A" section. This is where I write the Application. This is how I am applying what God is saying, to my life. The key here is to be specific. Vague generalities as I said in my previous blog is how we take the Word of God and diminish it's power in our lives. 

Let me jump on a soap box here for a second if you will. (If you don't want to hear my little rabbit trail just skip to the next paragraph) This point about applying God's Word brings up a very important subject. The spiritual maturity of the average American church attender / Christian is at best, sub par. I don't mean this as an insult or anything, I just mean that the Word of God is supposed cut deep into our hearts; surgically remove the character flaws, sin, and junk that is stunting our growth; and transform us into mature Christ followers. But this just does not happen for many Christians like it is supposed to. I feel that the reason for this is a lack of application. We go to church and God speaks through the message and what do we do? If it's really good then we might walk up front in response to the altar call. If it's pretty good then we might raise our hand in response to the call. Most of the time though, we just walk out the door and start talking about where we're going for lunch; life just resets and off we go. My point is that none of these responses are what the voice of God deserves. Somehow, church has become a place where we go to have our consciences eased and our souls massaged. The questions we all need to be asking is how am I going to apply what God is saying to my life or circumstances? What am I going to change in response to what God said to me? What is in my life that is keeping me from becoming what God is calling me to become? How should I pray in response to God's voice? & What step of faith should I take in order to follow God's Word? If we aren't asking at least one or two of these questions or something like them every time we read our Bibles and attend church, we are not applying the Word of God to our lives and therefore are not being transformed. I know that someone will read this and say something like, "I don't hear the voice of God in my church." or, "God doesn't speak to me at our church." Let me just ask you a few questions to help you reveal the source of the problem. Are you having consistent times with God during the week in which God is speaking to you and you are responding to His voice in obedience? During your daily devotions and prayer, are you lifting your Pastor and the leadership of your church up in prayer and asking God to protect them, speak to them, and use them mightily? On your way to church, is your car filled with heart felt worship and intercession in an attempt to soften your heart and prepare yourself to hear God's voice? While you are at church, are you fully engaged in worship, shutting out every distraction and giving God unreserved adoration? Are you, to the best of your ability, living a life of obedience to God's Word and the things that He has specifically said to you? If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions then it might be that you need to find a new church, but chances are that the problem is the condition of your heart and not your pastor or church. Ok, so let me make my point so we can get back to what you thought you were here to read. Ask yourself this question and be honest with yourself about the answer. (If you can't be honest with anyone else, at least be honest with yourself): Is my relationship with God stronger today than it was six months or a year ago? In other words, am I closer to God today than I have ever been in my life? If the honest answer is no then apply the Word of God to your life and pursue Him with all your heart.

Allright back to the journal entry, section "A" (big circled "A" in the margin):

I need to check my motives. I wonder if I am truly seeking God or if I am seeking His aid in some personal agenda. I'm committing to pray through this for the rest of the week. For the next five days, I'm going to ask God to reveal the motives of my heart.

The last section is the "P" section and is the part where I wrap it all up with prayer and yes there is a big circled "P" in the margin (a little obsessive I know but hey it works for me).

Lord, just as David prayed, I ask now that You search my heart. Reveal to me the areas of my heart that are not fully surrendered to You. Show me where my motive is impure. Expose the areas of my heart that are hidden in darkness. I repent of a distracted heart that seeks You and what You can do for me, and not You alone. I renew my commitment to seek You God, You and You alone.   Amen.

There it is. As you can see, It's not very long (if you take all my ramblings and clarifications out). It doesn't take a long time. And it's not difficult at all. Also, please note that I don't always use all four sections. Sometimes I write the scripture and jump straight to the prayer. With all that said, it is a very powerful tool that, with practice, can help you hear God's voice and grow closer to Him. That is after all, the goal isn't? My objective in writing this blog is to help you in your relationship with God. If you get nothing else out of this, please know this: God speaks to His children. Not occasionally, not if you jump through a specific set of hoops, He is speaking to you right now and is always speaking to you. And your spiritual growth is not dependent upon some great feat accomplished by extreme effort and sacrifice on your part. Just pursue a relationship with God; share with Him what's really on your heart; respond to His pursuit of you and the sound of His voice; and submit to Him in obedience. If you will do that, You will find yourself moving closer and closer to Him and recognizing His voice more and more. Happy journaling everyone.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SOAP A Journaling Method to Assist Your quiet Time

Blog entry for Week three of my part in the Lose It campaign. Weighed in today and went backwards on the whole weight thing 1.8 lbs  but lost another .4% body fat. I don't know what I expected so I don't even know if I should be happy or not. I guess I will adjust and keep moving forward. As I review my other Lose It goals I am doing well on most of them. I missed my date with Chelsea this week. We plan to make it up on Monday. I have kept my other commitments and I'm seeing the beginnings of the Lord's movement and I like it.

Last week I talked about the second part of the My Daily Plate that we are using at our church

As you will remember, there are four sections to the plate. (spirit, mind, body, and soul). I talked about the body and what I am doing to help me reach my goals for Lose It for two weeks. last week I changed the topic of discussion and talked about the mind and over-coming setbacks. So today I would like to continue the subject of the mind and share with you a Method of Journaling that I have used for a while now. It really assists me in my quiet times by providing a method to record what God is saying to me. Personally I feel that if you expect God to speak to you (and why do a quiet time if you don't) then you should at least be prepared to right it down when He speaks. in other words journaling is a discipline that we all should develop. And this method makes it a whole lot easier.

It's called the SOAP method. No I don't mean the soap you wash with. It's an acronym. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. The basic concept is this: As you are reading your Bible Prayerfully look for a scripture that stands out to you. With practice you will begin to hear The Holy Spirit whisper to you about certain scriptures or passages. This is the scripture that you write down in your journal. Don't just write the reference down either. Write the whole scripture or passage down. Next, write what you observe about this scripture or what you feel God is saying to you about it. As you write this down spend some time trying to clearly communicate what it is that makes this scripture jump off the page. This will help you gain clarity about what God is saying. Third, write down how you are going to apply it to your life. And don't make those ambiguous generalities either, make it have some meat. i.e. Instead of saying, "I'm going to pray more." say something like, "I am committing to pray 15 minutes a day 5 days a week for the next 5 weeks". The more specific you are the more you are setting yourself up to actually do what God is asking you to do. (You know, "Be doers of the Word and not just hearers) Lastly, Write a short prayer that expresses what you are thinking and more importantly feeling in response to what God is saying.

There you have it. It's that simple. I planned on showing you one of my entries but this blog is getting too long, so I will add another blog early next week and show you one of my journal entries. I hope this helps. Remember to evaluate your Lose It goals this week and evaluate how you are doing. Now is the time to make the appropriate adjustments to help you accomplish your goals. You can do it! I know I believe in you and Jesus believes in you. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grenades and Masculinity

I was riding in the car with my 11 yr old daughter last week and listening to Bruno Mars' song Grenade. In the middle of the song while I was singing along and telling her how much I loved it, Maddie looked at me and said, "This song does't make sense! I mean who would take a grenade for someone?" This lead us into a conversation about men and masculinity. We are having these conversations more and more as Maddie gets older and they usually start with me saying  something like, "Let me explain something to you about men" as if what I'm about to say is the kind of thing that is normal masculinity stuff. The sad truth however, is that this is usually no longer the case. The very reason that I feel compelled to define this man is the fact that he is missing or at least very rare in our culture today. And because true masculinity is rare, I want to do all that I can to ensure that she will know what to look for when the young men come pursuing.

The conversation I had with Maddie that day is the subject of this blog. There are several strengths to masculinity that I think are being overlooked, redefined, and even eliminated by our culture today. This is one of those strengths: One of a young man's greatest strengths is his expendability. In the heart of every young man is the burning desire to be a hero. Most of us couldn't tell you where it came from or what it means, but every boy has dreamed of risking his life and even dying to protect those he loves or fight for a cause he believes in. This is how a boy's heart expresses his love and devotion to the things he holds dear. Men are no different (or at least shouldn't be). Each of us would like to think that in the heat of the moment we would not hesitate to give our lives to protect our family and friends. A great example of this strength is United flight 93. The men (and women) of United flight 93 have our respect because they were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save the lives of others. This is The Strength of Expendability at its finest and it is one of the things that make a man great. When a man understands that one of the things that makes him so valuable is the fact that he doesn't think of himself as too important to be sacrificed, there is no limit to the things he can accomplish. When he considers his family to be precious and more dear to him than his own life, then his loved ones have little to fear. He doesn't have to be the strongest guy on the block. He doesn't have to be the smartest man at work. He doesn't have to be the richest man in town. He just has to be willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves and his family and loved ones will know that they are going to be taken care of.

When a man has this strength working in his life, you know that he's going to go to work even when he is sick. You know that he is going to spend time helping finish that project after work, no matter how tired he is. When a man has The Strength of Expendability working in his life, you know he will get up early and go to bed late if he has to, in order to get the job done. In other words, you know he's going to carry his weight and then some. You know that he will fight for what he believes in, stand up against injustice, and lay his life down for a worthy cause. This is the stuff that real heroes are made. It's exactly what our homes and families need. And it's the kind of life that Jesus calls men to.Mark 8:35 says, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." When you step back and look at it, it's a little crazy to think that a man would be motivated by statements like "lay your life down", but that is exactly what happens. In fact writing this blog, I am motivated to do more than just tell my daughter that this is a characteristic of a godly man. I want to show her with my life. I leave you with this question aimed at the men reading this blog: Have you allowed self-preservation to extinguish one of your greatest assets, or are you demonstrating The Strength of Expendability by your life?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lose it Part 3 Overcoming Setbacks

I will keep it brief today. In my video I discuss a setback that I found myself face to face with this week and what I am doing to overcome it. Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

On another note; my weigh in today showed that I have maintained the same weight that I had at the start of this whole thing and lost .4% b odd fat. I know, not that impressive but watch the video and you will see that these numbers are more encouraging than last week's. To be honest, it has been both a good and difficult week. I saw areas where God is moving in my life and faith is high. And at the same time I faced difficulties and setbacks. I think the key is determining what you are going to focus on. I am choosing to focus on the good things. (Sounds scriptural doesn't it?)

Anyway, hope you are experiencing some victories in your Lose It goals. God Bless.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lose It Part II

Welcome back! How about I share some great news? I heard this week that the 90 days of Lose It officially starts this Monday. Do you know what that means? It means if you started this week then you have a head start. It also means that if you haven't started yet, you still have time to join in. Don't wait join the rest of us and set some goals and go ahead and Lose It for Jesus.

What I would like to do in this blog is share with you my Plan B HIIT workout routine. If you have seen my previous blog (Lose It Part I) then you know that I am doing an interval training program that I put together after reading Bodyweight Overdrive by Mike O'Donnell. With this plan your interval training days are every other day and alternate between Plan A and Plan B. So on Monday I did Plan A, Wednesday was Plan B, and today Friday I was back to Plan B. You get the point. This will all modify after a few weeks (4 to be exact) and I will tell you all about it then. But today I want to fill you in on my Plan B workout and sign off so that you are not here all day reading this.

HIIT Training Workout Plan B:

 I won't go over the whole interval timing thing again you can just read my previous blog if you want to see that. I will tell you that I have adjusted it a little by adding another round of exercises in the first set so now I do each exercise four times instead of three and my first set is 12 minutes long instead of 9. My second set is still 9 min long and I don't think I could add anything to it even if I wanted to. Now without any further ado here it is.

1st  exercise (40 sec): Dips 
2nd exercise ( 40 sec): Inverted Rows*
3rd exercise (40 sec): Step ups w/ knee raise (20 lb dumbbells)
20 sec rest between each, repeat 4X's

2 min rest

4th exercise (40 sec): Lateral Raises (8 lb dumbbells)
5th exercise (40 sec): Burpies
6th exercise (40 sec): Turkish Get Ups (20 lbs)
20 sec rest between each, repeat 3X's

note: * designates the exercises that I use rope suspended from the ceiling to modify the exercise.

Thanks again for reading! Have a great weekend. Don't give up and shoot for the small victories the will carry you on to victory. Be sure and share your stories with me so we can celebrate together.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lose It Part I

So here it is my first blog of 2012 and I am selling out whole hog to the Lose It campaign that we are doing at my church Southpoint Community Church. And I will be sharing everything that I am doing to participate in all of this. First, let's talk about my goals for Lose It:

Physical Goals: (Lose the Pounds)

  1. I turn 40 this year and have never been consistent with my workout regimen. So goal #1 is all about consistency. Therefore, I want to workout 5 X's every week until Easter.
  2. Also, I would like to lose 5% of my body fat by Easter. I don't really know if this realistic or not but what the hey?
  3. While I'm at it with the physical goals I want to gain 5 lbs. of muscle mass. The way I see it is that if I gain .5 lbs/wk and decrease in body fat % at the same time this will work.
Personal Goals: (Lose the Excuses)
  1. As a husband and father I want to do a better job expressing my love for Chelsea and Maddie. So to start off I intend to go on a date with Chelsea every week and with Maddie at least twice a month. This will be a difficult goal for me to keep because I'm not much of a planner and my schedule can get away from me. So this will be a good growth goal for me.
  2. Too often I stink as a friend so my goal in this area will be to hang out with my guy friends at least once a month. I want genuine friendships that have lifelong ramifications and this will be a good start.
  3. I want to get our family finances in order. So Chelsea and I are going to attend the Crown Financial Seminar being held at our church on January 21st.
Spiritual Goals: (Lose the Attitudes & Baggage)

  1. As I said earlier, "I am selling out whole hog" to Lose It. So my first goal here is to do the daily plate 6X's/wk through Easter. I don't even fully understand what it is but I'm going to do it.
  2. I want to exercise my faith in 2012. So I intend to identify some of the promises in the Bible that I want to apply to my life and pray through them regularly, at least 5X's/wk.
  3. Finally, what's the point of going on a spiritual journey with Jesus if you're not going to make sure it's memorable? So I intend to journal and blog about this whole experience so that whatever God does in all of this will be recorded and not forgotten.
Well, there they are. It's a little scary putting your goals out there for all to see. Either no one will read them and that would be a little disheartening or I will fail and you all will know about. In any case I look forward to the whole experience and to see what God will do with my efforts.

I mentioned in the video that I would do this so, here's a short explanation of my workouts and how it is all supposed to work. Mike O'Donnell (btw he believes in intermittent fasting not interval fasting sorry 'bout that!) in his book lays out a system that is based on the HIIT concept. I have taken his system and customized it according to his suggestions. Today was my Plan A routine and here is what I did:

The interval training that I am doing is based on a circuit system. I spend 40 sec. on an exercise and then rest for 20 sec. Then I go to the next exercise in my circuit. there are three exercises that I rotate through and I continue this for 9 min. before I rest for 2 min. After the rest I do a new circuit for 9 min. This is the beginning plan for his system. After 4 wks I will change the exercises and circuit times and start all over. one more thing about this. Each exercise is based on a specific muscle group and activity and therefore compliment each other. 1st exercise: Upper body push, 2nd exercise: upper body pull, 3rd exercise lower body, 4th exercise: upper body secondary, 5th exercise: Plyometric exercise, 6th exercise core exercise. So here it is for the few of you who are still reading:

1st  exercise (40 sec): pushups *
2nd exercise ( 40 sec): pull-ups
3rd exercise (40 sec): Pistoles *
20 sec rest between each, repeat 3X's

4th exercise (40 sec): handstand pushups (definitely modified!)
5th exercise (40 sec): kettle ball swings 20 lbs
6th exercise (40 sec): planks *

note: * designates the exercises that I use rope suspended from the ceiling to modify the exercise.

This was long but it was an introduction. my future posts will be shorter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ramblings From Mark: 4 (Parable of the Sower)

This parable has been one of my favorites for almost twenty years. It is a very simple parable with a seemingly simple message but it contains some very profound truths in it. I intend to spend my next few blogs discussing some of the things that stand out to me in this parable and how they have impacted me and my search  for hope.

Jesus begins with, "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed." This immediately brings to mind a question, and that question is, "What is the seed?" You don't really have to wonder for long what the seed is because Jesus tells us later as he explains this parable to his disciples. The seed is God's Word. When I read this it really rocks my world and is a big reason why I serve and love God today. God speaks! When I say that He speaks, I mean that He speaks to you personally. Jewish tradition says that God's Word is forever speaking from Mt. Sinai. The tradition exists because God spoke audibly form Mt Sinai in the days of Moses and they feel that His voice continues to this day. I like this thought for several reasons but that is not what I'm talking about here. God is speaking to you! He's speaking right now. He is always speaking to you. The coolest part about this is that He is saying something to you at the same time as he is saying something completely different to someone else. What God is saying to you  is a personal message for you. 

God speaks in different ways. The most common way that God speaks to us is through His Word. This is why the Bible is said to be living and active. By itself the Bible is just a book and if you read it and do not hear from God as you're reading, it will not be of much use to you. However, when you are reading the Bible and, all of a sudden, God highlights something you are reading it comes alive and has power to change your life. God's Word spoken to our heart really is like a seed that God plants there. If this work is nurtured and cared for, it will grow and eventually bear fruit in our lives. This fruit is life change. 

There is one final point that I would like to briefly share on this subject today and it  involves this concept of life change. We have all heard the question, "Can a leopard change it's spots?" It is common in our culture today to say that it is impossible to change who we are. This is at the same time both true and discouraging. Everyone has character flaws and bad habits that we wish we could change but the truth is that on our own we are powerless to change them. However, God's Word has the power to change us form the inside out. Jesus tells us that we don't need to understand how this works. We just need to plant His Word in our hearts, cultivate the "seed" of His word, and He will do the rest. This is the subject of the parable of the sower and the point that Jesus is making here. We will need to address the condition of the soil that you are planting in and I will do that in later posts (or you can read the parable for yourself Mark 4:1-20) but the point is that God's Word planted in the human heart has an incredible, unbelievable, miraculous, life changing power.