Doing It All Yourself?

You and I are capable of amazing things—when we let ourselves dream, search out and discover wise means of reaching our dreams, and focus and commit to building ourselves brick by brick, day by day.  God has created us with limitless potential, and you’re used to reading words here that will challenge and encourage you to take action today toward growth and pursuit of your goals.  As you go forth on your journey, however, you cannot expect success going it alone.  It is only when we find our particular purpose for which we have been created and plug into God’s agenda that we can truly thrive.

Wedding

Psalm 63

7For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

8My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

9But those who seek my life to destroy it,
Will go into the depths of the earth.

10They will be delivered over to the power of the sword;
They will be a prey for foxes.

11But the king will rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him will glory,
For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.

Conveying the Truth

We are given a great many pictures in the Bible which convey the way God relates to us.  In v7 and v8 of this Psalm, we see two examples:  The shadow of God’s wings and God’s right hand.  Although God has neither wings nor hands, these metaphors give us a very clear and powerful idea of what God is like and how we are meant to live.  We are our strongest not when we work hardest and rely most on ourselves, but rather when we recognize our frailty and seek refuge in God.

The Shadow of His Wings

The picture of living in the shadow of God’s wings gives the thought of a powerful and majestic bird of prey.  I think of an eagle soaring high above the ground, completely out of reach of those who may wish to harm him.  At any moment, the eagle can sweep down with his powerful talons and reign down with a fierce attack on whomever he wills.  As one loved by God, I know than when I rest in the shadow of His wings, I need fear no man.  The shadow means that although I can’t touch Him, I know he is there without a doubt.  He is above me, ready and able to protect and defend me from any who would oppose His will and my obedience.

God’s Right Hand

Being upheld by God’s right hand conveys many similar ideas.  When I think of how easily I can be overcome by others or by life’s circumstances, I am encouraged by remembering that God’s strength is something I can lay hold of.  When in my humanness I would certainly fail, I know in that moment that I can rely on Christ to give me His strength.  It may be a fight against temptation, or the tenacity to hold my resolve in a tese situation, or even to withstand persecution.  In these times, I have confidence, knowing that when my strength fails, God will provide all the strength I need.

His Glory

So much more could be said, how many volumes could be filled with this glorious truth!  God’s power and strength are infinite, and He is anxious to grant them to any who will follow after Him, seek His will, and have the faith to live it out each day.  As we work with the tools we have to grow in our own wisdom, strength, and capability, let us never forget that One who is infinitely stronger than we could ever be or imagine stands with us.  As he shows Himself powerful and faithful, we will discover new heights achievable only through His divine work, for His glory and our good!

Why Do Clean Hands Matter?

Whoever loves Christ has the remarkable privilege of adoption into God’s family.  Since we call God Father, we may inadvertently diminish His great power and His holy wrath toward those who oppose Him.  The following excerpt from Psalm 18 depicts God in his mighty majesty and power, and reminds us that in times when those who pit themselves against God seek to harm us, our Father yet holds the strength and the will to bring down those who lift themselves up.

 

Psalm 18

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.

14He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.

15Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O LORD,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

16He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.

17He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

18They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my stay.

19He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

20The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.

21For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.

22For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.

Nature Obeys Him

In verses 13-15 we get a clear picture of the massive strength and power of our Mighty God.  The elements of this earth obey His every word, as he sends forth lightning to scatter groups of men who would oppose Him.

The psalmist remembers past times when the Lord has delivered him from his enemies.  Strength and safety was found in the secure presence of God himself.  This haven was provided to the psalmist because God delighted in him.  He chose righteousness and clean hands, rather than falling to the temptation that undoubtedly surrounded him.

What You Place Before Your Eyes

See in verse 22 how the psalmist continued to keep the ways of the Lord:  by keeping God’s Laws before his eyes.  This is a great example for us to follow—day by day placing the statutes of the Lord in front of us, that we might live in them.

To those who do not understand the ways of God and who He is, it seems silly and pointless to place such restrictions upon ourselves.  For example, why would we choose to “miss out” on all the fun of casual sex or drunken partying?  Many who engage in these things seem to do just fine, and disaster and destruction don’t necessarily rain down on them.  But there is wisdom in the words of this Psalm, and in the example set by the psalmist.  By living God’s way when it seems that we could “get away” with behavior that displeases Him, we are storing up a reward (v20) with Him who holds all things in His Hands.

What Will That Day Be Like?

Days of struggle and even oppression by the unrighteous occur in the lives of Christians more often than we’d like to think about.  When these days come for you, how will you face them?  Will you confidently rest in the comforting protection of your Father God, or will you look back in regret at all the times you broke and disregarded the statutes of the One who stands in power over all things?

In our culture, it can be so easy to push the Laws of God into the back corners of our mind—to focus on so many things which fill our schedules, until there’s no time for reading God’s Word or talking with Him.  Let’s encourage each other to adopt some new habits of placing the statutes of God ever before our eyes.  Let’s work as a group to grow in righteousness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may face our enemies and disasters with clean hands and a pure heart, watching what our Mighty God will do in defense of His children!

What Are You Training For?

Here at TotalThriver, we love to discuss the importance of a challenging fitness regimen, encouraging you to make physical training a priority and reap the many benefits that come with it.  But, there are different ideas of what ideal fitness looks like.  Today, we’ll introduce three measures (or perspectives) of fitness in order to help you identify what type of training fits you best.  By knowing what you want to achieve in the realm of fitness, you’ll be a good way along in reaching your ideal!

You’ll Go Far

The first fitness type we’ll examine is cardiovascular endurance.  This may be your focus if your goal is to have a thin body with lean muscle that is capable of running long distances.  Picture your favorite marathon or iron man competitor, and this will give you an idea of what you’re aiming at.  Personally, when I think of cardiovascular endurance, I think of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France.  He doesn’t’ have a large muscular stature, but he can pedal that bike seemingly endlessly!

Training the cardiovascular system involves long periods of a relatively easy movement, repeated over and over.  Endurence trainers will often spend hours and hours training every day, always staying at a “slow burn.”.  By definition, their effort in training will never be at absolute maximum, because this would be unsustainable.  Rather, an endurance athlete may spend 2.5 hours in a single training session at a consistent 60% effort.

What you Get

This type of fitness regimen gives the athlete a well-developed set of lungs, and muscles that can sustain hours and hours of the repetitive motion that is being trained.  Common applications of this type of fitness include biking, running, swimming, or rowing.  If you focus on this training type, you’ll soon find that many everyday activities which used to make you huff and puff (e.g. climbing three flights of stairs) can now be accomplished with ease.  You may also enjoy the slimmer-looking you that results from long training sessions which burn lots of calories and fat.

Lift a Bus

The second fitness type is strength training or training for raw power.  This kind of training focuses on lifting heavy objects, usually for a very short period of time.  In contrast with a marathon runner training cardiovascular fitness, a strength training individual may push himself to maximal effort during a set of squats that lasts less than 30 seconds.  Then, he’ll rest for a few minutes before attempting another set.

When thinking of strength training, my quintessential example has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Every muscle group on this man is full, developed, and in proportion to all the others.  He can (or at least could, in his day) lift very heavy barbells and perform dazzling feats of strength.  His training involved hours and hours at the gym, pushing with maximum effort, followed by a short rest, repeated over and over for many years to reach his ideal form.

Good to Have Around

You may want to focus on this type of training if you desire to have a strong and healthy “beach body,” look or if it’s important to you to have the capability of lifting heavy things.  Important exercises to include in your program for this type include deadlifts, squats, snatches, and clean and jerks.  These movements should be done in heavy sets at low reps—5 sets of 5 reps or 7 sets of 2 reps, for example, resting a minute or two between sets.  Those who make strength training a focus are great to have around anytime you need to move a piano or large dresser!

Fast and Strong

The third type of fitness we’ll examine today is called metabolic conditioning. In some ways, this type can be thought of as a cross between the first two.  It involves challenging movements like pullups, dips, snatches, and deadlifts, but also incorporates continuous movement and “easy” high-rep movements like burpees, box jumps, and running.  It will generally require significantly less training time than the other two, because the highest possible intensity is maintained for a continuous span of 5-20 minutes.  This is in contrast with the low-intensity “slow burn” of endurance training and the alternating periods of maximum effort followed by a rest period, which make up a strength training program.

Don’t Be Fooled

A metabolic conditioning workout (or metcon, as it’s lovingly called by those who train this way) involves multiple sets of various movements, done in rapid succession while the entire workout is timed.  For example, one might do 5 sets of the following rep scheme:  15 pushups, 10 pullups, 5 box jumps.  Before you make a common mistake that I’m often guilty of, don’t say, “that sounds easy!”   Metcons can be very deceiving!  This one in particular results in a grand total of 75 pushups, 50 pullups, and 25 box jumps, and might take around 4-5 minutes for a relatively fit individual. 

This type of training focus results in a strong and solid body, with a very developed set of lungs.  A good example of a “metcon body” might be Bruce Lee.  He didn’t look big or muscle-bound, but he was a very strong and fast guy, and could kick and jump all around the room with plenty of energy to spare.  While a person who trains this way may not be able to hang with an endurance trainer for a full marathon, he’d likely keep pace just fine for the first several miles.  Similarly, a metcon trainer will not be able to move as much heavy weight as a strength trainer, but he’ll be able to continue churning out reps while the strength trainer has to stop to rest and catch his breath.

When You Think You’re Spent…

One of the tricks of making it through a tough metcon is to push yourself to the limit, then take very short breaks intermittently (by very short, I mean 2-3 seconds maximum).  There will be moments where you think you can’t possibly make it, but keep pushing and you’ll soon find that you’re fitter than you think!

Customize Your Plan

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of three types of fitness focus:  endurance training, strength training, and metcon training.  Each has distinct benefits, and in truth, any good program should incorporate all three types of training.  But, it is a valuable undertaking for you to learn these different perspectives and think about which one most appeals to you.  Do you want to be lean and trim, capable of extended periods of low-intensity movement?  Or do you want to have massive power and full, developed muscles?  Or, do you prefer to run shorter distances yet have the capability to move heavy weights too?  Be sure that your program pulls from each—a run one day, heavy squats another, and a good metcon another.  But spend a majority of days training in your preferred style.  Not only will that take you where you want to go, but you’ll enjoy it more along the way too!

As always, check out the ThriveFit page for several sample workouts to get you started, and be sure to comment on that page or this one to let us know how you’re doing!