Saturday, December 3, 2011

Exercise: Its not just for Athletes

Exercise can be scary. When many of us think of exercise, our minds turn to weight lifting and then to professional body builders! But as leaders, we need to become masters of ourselves (aka "lead" ourselves), if we expect to lead others. How can a preacher preach about self-discipline if his stomach screams something different? Can we present a confident image if we're uncomfortable with our perceived amounts of flab? While i am not suggesting that if you are overweight, you cannot lead others, I am suggesting that there are great benefits to leadership that comes from exercising. 

There are so many things that we could talk about concerning this, such as eating portions, how to lift, how to eat healthy, etc, but I'm going to share why every person should exercise because of the following benefits.

1. Your health will improve.
Exercise promotes your overall health. Now, many of us know that cognitively, but we haven't internalize it. Examples will help. A friend at seminary and I use to play basketball three times a week last semester. This semester, we haven't played much because of his workload and as a result, his headaches that were previously held back by exercise are returning. Or take a relative of mine. Being older, she's had some trouble coming back physically from a car accident. She's had some lingering aches and pains, but since she's starting working out, she's mentioned how she rarely feel achy. Or, take me for an example. Whenever I come back from a run, my appetite decreases. After the first time I went for a run on the Benjamin Franklin bridge in Philadelphia, I barely at a 6in sub from Subway. If you know me, I can usually wolf down a footlong! Exercising, whether that be lifting weights, playing some sports, or taking a walk, can help slim down some pounds, take away the aches, decrease your appetite and give you more energy.

2. You will have a better self-image and higher self-esteem.
Our self-esteem and self-image comes partly from our minds. Its the result of how we think about ourselves, based off of what we think others will think of us. However, our physical surroundings can play a part in how we think about ourselves. For example, if I roll out of bed, sit down at my desk and try to do work while in my sleeping clothes, I feel lazy. If I get out of bed, have some breakfast, change into jeans and a polo and then do some work, I feel energized and ready to work. Our bodies are the same way. If we look at ourselves and don't like what we see, we feel down on ourselves, convinced that we're fat and that no one likes us. But, when we see our stomachs being not so big, or that we dont' get as tired walking up those step, we feel better about ourselves. This translates into a better attitude and a better outlook on life. And trust me, those that you are leading will enjoy a happier you!

3. You will have lower stress levels.
We all experience stress and we all need to find ways of relieving it. If we don't relieve it, like a cover pot of boiling water, we will just burst! Exercise has a way of lowering stress levels. According to Mayo clinc, "exercise has some direct stress-busting benefits." They say that it not only pumps up your endorphins (that's some good stuff!) and improves your mood (a bonus),  it is also like meditation in motion, helping to keep you calm and clear on your tasks. When I run, I'm focusing on just putting that one foot ahead of the other one and then repeating. When I lift, I'm focusing my energies toward lifting that one weight. Meditation in motion. 


So, while exercise can definitely be scary at first, keep in mind the benefits. It doesn't matter if you lift weights, or play some sports, go for a run or go for a walk. Any and all exercise will make you healthier, more confident and less stressed. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shoes, Screens and Souls

Recently, I had two events that brought up a troubling question to mind. It struck me hard then and it still does as I continue to chew over the thought. I can't seem to swallow it, nor shake it.

First, my mom recently bought me some new loafers, so that I could put away my boots, never to wear them again. Right after purchasing them, she instructed me to first spray them with an anti-liquid spray, to protect it from rain. On the bottle itself, I was told to make sure that the shoes were clean and free from dusk. Hold the shoes 6in away from the can. Spray in a back and forth manner. Coat generously. Then, allow to dry for 24 hours before wearing. In the process of spraying the shoes, I accidentally drop it on my garage floor. I gasped, quickly picked it up and immediately started wiping the dust and dirt off in the hopes that I had not ruined my new, beautiful leather loafers!!

Secondly, my brothers got me an iPhone for my birthday. Now that I'm almost done with seminary, having a smartphone is very helpful. Like a few of my friends said, once I've used a smartphone, I'm not sure how I got along without one! Its quite amazing. I get to pay an extra $15 for the data plan (sarcasm). I'm able to check my Google calendar wherever I go (very helpful!). I am able to take pictures of pages in books and commentaries and then store it via Dropbox, so I can view it on my phone or later at home on my monitor. This way, I don't need to check out the commentary from the library, or lug books home for the holidays. I can access the internet in seconds, as opposed to waiting for my computer to load up for 5-10 minutes (this is if I'm turning it on, not waking it up from hibernation). I'm able to take pictures in this one device, as opposed to having to carry around a point and shoot camera with my phone (what a hassle).I have a bible wherever I go. I have a flashcard app which I use to study my Greek vocab. AND, the one thing that continues to amaze me, is the screen. No matter how many times I touch it, the smudges come off by simply wiping it with the nearest fabric. Everytime. Clean! So, if you see me rubbing my phone against my stomach or legs, now you know why!  I'm taking care of my phone!

The troubling question that came to my mind then is this: Why do I take such good care of certain material goods, but fail to give such attention to the care of my soul? 

I took the time to spray my loafers to make them water-resistant. Why do I not spend time in God's word to make my soul more "sin" resistant?

I daily spend time cleaning the screen of my iPhone. Why do I not daily spend time in genuine prayer in order to fix my focus on Christ?

Why do I care more about my things that won't last than about things that will last?

We cannot say that we love God if it isn't fleshed out. If I said that I loved my family and yet, refused to talk with them and refused to visit, then I would be called a liar. I (and you, if it so pertains), need to be more concerned about my relationship with God. It doesn't mean that I should neglect my phone or give it away (though, I know some of you would be willing to help me if needed!). It does mean that I need to put my money where my mouth is, in a manner of speaking.

Our words speak to our intentions. Our actions speak to our reality. We need our realities to match our words.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leadership Tips from Relationship Tricks

As I was going about my business today, I had a lightbulb moment. Is it possible to transfer tricks and lessons  learned from a relationship into leadership principles? Now, I don't intend "tricks" to mean little ways that I've found to manipulate my relationship with my girlfriend. I intend them to refer to realizations in a relationship that mutual benefit and mature the relationship (eg. "Oh, its not about me!"). So with that said, here are my thoughts:

1. If you are wrong, you need to say I'm sorry.

When I was growing up, the absolute one thing that I remember my older brother teaching me was that you need to take responsibility for your actions.There's no other way to say it. As a leader, if you are in the wrong, then you're wrong! Don't try to side step the issue, blame those around you, pretend it didn't happen, or make excuses. When a leader refuses to see what others are saying and refuses to see the evidence, I think this stinks of pride and arrogance. When a leader makes excuses or  pretends to know what he is doing, I think this reaks of low self-confidence. As the great theologian Russel Peters remarked once, "Be a (wo) the right thing!"

2. Stop trying to be understood and start trying to understand. 

One of the important lessons that I've had to learn in my relationship is that while I do need to share my feelings and thought, my job is not to necessarily convince her of my arguments nor to help her see "the light" of my side (which I will confess I have prayed sometimes!). My job is to understand where she is coming from, both cognitively and emotionally. It doesn't mean that I need to agree with her, but it does mean that I need to validate and value her by understanding her. When this is done, we are both so much more receptive to each other. For us, the issues isn't always the correctness of the argument, but being sure that we're understood and validated by the other person.

What if leadership is the same way? When whom we are leading bring up an idea, do we shoot it down? Do we try to convince them of why we should stick to our own, original idea (ie. help them see the light)? We don't necessarily need to agree with or implement every new proposal or idea that comes across to us BUT, if we want those that we are leading to be valued and to feel valued, we have got to seek to understand them. Why did they bring up this new idea? What is the heart-reason behind it?

3. Its not about you.

How hard of a lesson is this to learn in a relationship? Stemming from the previous point, this really goes against  our culture of me-ism, where the mentality is to "have it your way, break me off a piece of that kit-kat bar, this bud's for you, two for me none for you, open happiness"? While its easy to go into a relationship acknowledging that "I need to think of the other person," it is very hard to harness everything about us under that mantra.

As leaders, it can get very easy to feel like its all about us. People cater to us, we get to "boss" people around and we get to lead others (which can be a big ego boost, no matter what anyone says!). However, let me encourage you, if you are in a position of leadership or are going to be in one, that our mentality as leaders should be this: Serve them.

Serve them. Its not about you, its about others. Serve them. When everything is going well and the praise and glory is flowing in, give credit where credit is due by directing it to those who work for you. Serve them. When everything is going to hell and criticisms and blame are crashing in, protect your team by standing up and taking responsibility. Serve them. 

If as leaders, we don't learn to serve others, others will not want to serve under us. And, according to one definition of leadership.... we are only leaders if people are following us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Doors

Has this happened to you before?

Say you attempted to join your church's year long plan to read the whole Bible and you started out strong. The first week, you follow the schedule to a "T" and your relationship with God is just soaring! Week two comes and you're starting to falter.  You're read about 3, maybe 4 days out of the week. By week three, you're barely crawling, You're reading maybe once, at the most. At that point, how do you feel? Most likely horrible. Not many of us like to commit to a task, only to fail so early on. The bigger question should be," How do we respond?"

There are two doors that people usually open in response to a failure in any spiritual discipline. Its not just in reading the bible, it could be in prayer, or meditation, or quiet times, etc.

Behind Door #1 is the attitude of "Try Harder!" Behind that door, people don't sympathize with you, but rather critique you. They put you through a guilt trip.  According to them, you just didn't give it a good enough try. "Really put some effort into it," they would say, or "have you tried reading the Bible early in the morning like Jesus would have done?" But...should Christianity be a "try harder, do better, just need to mentally convince myself to love it more so that I somehow can become more spiritual like everyone I see at church and thus, will be able to read my Bible everyday" religion? I don't think so (Phil 2:8-9)

Behind Door #2 is the attitude of "Don't Try!" Behind this door are people who espouse the idea that you need to "let go and let God." The idea here is that you are trying too hard. You need to just stop trying and allow God to work in you, to bring you to a place where you can, in this example, read the Bible every day. There is an imagery of us just lying in bed and saying,"Ok your work on me. Make me into a mature, spiritual giant!" I don't know about you, but that just sounds lazy! While we cannot rely on our own strength, there must effort from our side. This doesn't sound quite right either (James 2:24, 26).

Most of the times, we stop at these two doors and either try harder or stop trying. However, there is a third door that Paul seems to advocate from the New Testament.

Behind Door #3 is the attitude of "Train Yourself." The idea here isn't that you're unspiritual and thus you need to try harder. Its not that you're trying too hard and that you need to just stop trying and allow God to work. The idea here is found in  1 Timothy 4:7:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness. 

We also find this idea of training in 1 Tim 4:6, 2 Tim 3:16, Heb 5:14, Heb 12:11 and Titus 2:12. Dr. Roy King defined training as "doing what I can do, in order to increase my capacity to be able to do, what I cannot do, by just trying."

So, if you are desire to grow in the spiritual be able to pray deeper and longer, to be able to spend time in God's word every day for an hour, to be able to wake up and have a quiet time with God in the morning...instead of trying to run that "marathon without first training," first train. That might mean just praying a minute every day to begin. This could mean reading 1 chapter out of the New Testament every other day to start. Find where you're at and then take baby steps. No Olympic athlete got their gold medal without first training and neither will we.

So next time you "fail," what door are you going to enter?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Church = multiethnic

In class the other day, an interesting question was posed: does every church need to be multi-ethnic in order to be considered biblical?

My initial answer would be no. I think back on all the chinese churches that I've visited or been a part of. Are they not part of the true church? Is it so bad that they are mostly chinese? While I think being multi-ethnic would be good, I think the Chinese churches do a great job of reaching out to Chinese immigrants. If those churches were white or black, I doubt their ministry to the immigrants would be effective. The same would go with the Chinese Church trying to reach out to a black community.

On the other hand... doesn't Jesus teach that the gospel transcends race? If the gospel transcends race, shouldn't our churches? And didn't Paul rebuke Peter for disassociating himself with the Gentiles? How many times do we read in the New Testament about how the Jews and Greek Christians needed to love one another and to live in peace and unity? So, in that sense, our really ethnic chinese churches need to become more diverse and intermingle with Christians of different races, so that our unity, despite our diversity, can be evidences of God's glory!

But, on the other hand, I can't help but wonder if all this talk I hear in Christian circles about how God loves diversity, and how because "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess," our churches need to representative of that (instead of just sticking to our race), is a result of our current culture. We live in a post-modern society in which diversity is celebrated. Does that play a part in the church's current emphasis on diversity?

In the end, although much more could be said on this, I think its important to think about whom we are reaching out to. I think Chinese church need to stay chinese (at least for 1st gen), because they do a great job of reaching out to Chinese immigrants. For a young church in the city, I think its important to be diverse ethnically, because thats the culture of the young professionals.

No matter what we decide our churches should be like, we ought to keep this in mind...

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Gal 3:28

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How can 3 words be so hard?

"I am sorry"

Those are some very tough words to say and yet, we know we all need to say it at one point or another. Right now, I'm going through Alfred Poirier's "The Peace-Making Pastor," in which Mr Poirier shares lesson from experience and practical steps for mediation of conflicts within the church. He makes an interesting point on page 124 that, "too often we as church leaders assume that our people know what a good confession is." He goes on to say that he's witness a lot of poor confessions that actually made the situation worst! "Ironically, the confessor too often subverts the very intent of his or her confession by using an accusatory tone of voice or making a halfhearted appeal."  He then goes on to share Ken Sade's "Seven A's of Confession," with a little modification and as I read through that, I realized that this is beneficial to all to know.

  1. Address Everyone Involved. We must not only address God and the one we have offended, but we must consider if there are others that we have indirectly offended. "There fore, we need to address everyone involved: God, the person we offended, and the others watching" (126).
  2. Avoid If, But, and Maybe. "If, but, and maybe are confession stoppers. They effectively erase every word confessed before and after them" (127). He suggests a good way to test the "strength of our confession" is to say it to God. Does "God, I'm sorry for looking at pornography, but I wasn't try to!" sound like a confession to you?
  3. Admit Specifically. While admitting specifically doesn't mean that forgiveness is contingent on articulating every sin in every detail possible, it does show the one you've offended that you understand what you've done, how you have sinned against them and how you have hurt them. 
  4. Accept the consequences. People have trouble forgiving because the one confession has trouble accepting the consequences. This step is akin to not only embracing God's forgiveness, but also to his call of repentance.
  5. Alter Your Behavior. "If our goal is to grow to be like Christ, then confession is not enough. We need to alter our behavior" (129). Additionally, this will show our sincerity to the person when we change the way we act. 
  6. Ask Forgiveness. We often times assume that by saying "I'm sorry," that we are also requesting forgiveness. We need to ask "Will you please forgive me?" because "by asking, we recognize and acknowledge that we do not and cannot forgive ourselves" (129). 
  7. Allow Time. While God may forgive us right away, human beings do not. Some people have issues to work through first before they can say, "I forgive you." Thus, we must separate our responsibilities from those who are being asked to give forgiveness. Additionally, "the counsel to allow time is not a counsel to do nothing" (130). In the meanwhile, to take proactive steps to give that person time, we can reflect on our sins, on Christ's atoning work on the cross for us and pray for the offended one, that they would be set free from bitterness, revenge, grief, pain, hurt, etc. 
In looking at that list, I can see areas in which I have grown and other areas in which I need to grow more. It is definitely a process that we go through, but as the body of Christ, if  we are truly brothers and sisters in the Lord, then we need to learn to resolve conflicts among ourselves as a family!

I hope this is as beneficial to you all as it was for me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What are you training for?

(...) train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8

I've been reflecting on this passage sporadically the last few weeks and every time it comes to ind, I am convicted by the Holy Spirit. How often do we train ourselves for something that only has value in this current life, only to neglect training in something that will have value both now and after death: godliness. 

For me personally, I'm convicted because I think about how religiously I go to the gym during the week. And if an engagement or work comes up during my usual MWF workout times, I just shift my schedule around so that I can go to the gym at some other times during that day. Then I look at my devotional habits and I am appalled to see that I do not spend regular time in the Word nor do I "fight" for that time like I would with my workouts. Working out is not a bad thing, but its value is only for this life. Is it not better to train for that which is valuable both now and in the future?

What about you? What do you find yourself training for at the expense of training in godliness? You might be working hard to be a great computer programmer, or you might be training yourself, by going to conferences, to be a better leader, or you might be looking to improve as a parent by reading all the parenting books that you can. 

While these are not bad, Paul commands us to train ourselves in godliness. Godliness has value in everything and in every way. Let us strive for godliness, let us train for godliness and let us not neglect it for other pursuits.