“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
In the picture on the right I probably weigh about 240 lbs I got up to 250 lbs at one point. On the left I weigh about 175 lbs. As of this moment I am 173 lbs. I have learned a lot in going from 250 lbs to 173 lbs. One blog post won't cover it all, but here are a few of the important things.
First, for me working out wasn't enough. I have worked out and even done a lot of cardio supplemented by a little weight lifting in the past. I gained muscle working out that way, but I also maintained or even gained weight. Perhaps when a person is younger (depending on their metabolism) they might be able to just add some cardio and be good. For me, as I got older my metabolism didn't cooperate and it didn't work. My body reacted to lifting by adding muscle pretty fast but I also added a lot of weight that wasn't muscle.
Second, I had to be passionate about my workouts. For me that meant MMA. I love doing Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai and I have become an instructor, as well as a student. Both offer a great work out along with challenging the mind by learning a variety of techniques that take a lot of work to master.
Third, the closer I got to my goal weight the more diet mattered. The first 50 lbs came off with a lot of working out and small diet changes. The last 27 lbs have required a more significant change in diet. I met with a nutritionist to help me figure mine out. Furthermore, when I say diet, I don't mean a short term diet, I mean a change in lifestyle when it comes to the food I eat. I eat a lot of food, but it is combined with significant workouts.
Fourth, it took me 2 1/2 years to lose all the weight with a variety of plateaus and a lot of learning along the way. I'm still learning and my diet will change a little bit in the near future to reflect a maintenance diet, but it will remain a very clean diet for the rest of my life. Losing weight is not a short term project if you want to keep it off, it is a lifetime commitment.
Fifth, I experienced physical injuries, soreness, and a lot of days where I didn't want to do the work, but did anyway. I had time off because of injuries and I will probably have some more of that in the future, but I will stay the course.
Last, it was all worth it. I am healthier, I have endurance, I mentally healthier, my stress level is more manageable, I am experiencing less pain in my joints, I am doing 14ers again without knee pain, I am running 2-3 miles a few times a week. Today I ran two miles went to a kickboxing class with my daughter, and then did an hour and 45 minutes of competition team. I was tired, but I was able to manage it and still feel good. I look better and feel better. If you have been struggling with weight, do what is necessary to deal with it. We ought not worship our physical body, but it taking care of it holds value; our spiritual life is of more value (1 Tim. 4:8).
People, all people, no matter their ethnicity, country of origin, current location, or anything else are created in the image of God. How can they possibly be illegal? It's true, people aren't illegal. In fact, I have tried to find someone making the argument that people are illegal are illegal and I have failed to find such an argument made by anyone. Now, the internet is filled with all kinds of crazies and I would imagine that if I looked hard enough I might be able to find some crazy making such an argument. It seems fair to say that no person in their right mind having given this any kind of significant thought is making this argument. Perhaps some conservative has fallen for the bait (the bait being the statement"people are not illegal!") and attempted to respond with some kind of statement.
Where did this statement come from? This statement came from the same place "marriage equality," "pro-choice," "gun control," and a whole host of other such statements came from. It comes from people who have a brilliant approach to rhetoric and a lot of what the apostle Paul calls "πιθανολογία" which means "persuasive speech." Someone or some group of people somewhere came up with this statement "people are not illegal" and for the uninitiated it sounds as if there is some large group of people or some powerful people suggesting that people are illegal. Of course this surrounds the issue of immigration.
Does the statement "People are not illegal" make a valid point?
This statement assumes an argument that is not being made, but more than that, people are not illegal for being people, but they can become "illegal" in the sense that they have taken some kind of illegal action. For instance, I am not illegal for being me, but if I enter my neighbors locked home by breaking the window and climbing in I have now done something illegal. That is to say, I have committed a crime. When someone uses the term "illegal immigrant" they are not accusing the immigrant of being illegal for being a person, or even for being an immigrant. They are saying that the manner in which they became an immigrant was illegal. Of course there are legal ways of becoming and immigrant and there are illegal ways like overstaying a visa or crossing the border in an illegal fashion. The same thing has been done with the LGBTQ+ community. Any criticism or critique is painted as an attack on personhood.
Saying we have an illegal immigration problem and that people are coming into our country illegally should not be controversial, but some sophists have done a good job of using language to make it seem like conservatives are "racist" or accusing people of being illegal simply because they are people. All of it is an informal logical fallacy called "red herring." It simply means it is a form of misdirection. It might be worth noting that if people are illegal, then so are the people who are presumable accusing others of being illegal, but no such accusation is being made.
As the apostle Paul suggests in Colosians, we should not be convinced of things by "fine sounding" arguments. Instead we should recognize the truth of Proverbs 10:19 "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise."
As I sit here at Masterpiece Bakery writing this blog post and reflecting on the decision by SCOTUS in favor of Jack Phillips I can't help rejoice in what God has done for Jack, but be a little concerned that SCOTUS didn't go far enough. Undoubtedly, this is not the last we have heard about cases similar to the Masterpiece case.
The good, Jack has been vindicated regarding the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's treatment of Jack's case in particular. Jack, Debbie, and Lisa are thrilled and excited about this ruling. I am rejoicing with them and so are the steady stream of people coming in bringing flowers, balloons, and so on (Romans 12:15).
The unclear, it is not yet known whether this means that Jack can begin making wedding cakes. It seems likely that he will be able to, however, SCOTUS' ruling was sufficiently vague enough to leave this in question. Further, it is likely that if he does, someone will undoubtedly test this issue again. Although the ruling was 7-2, it was also a very narrow ruling.
What the ruling did say is that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was "hostile" in its treatment toward Masterpiece and the free exercise of religious freedom, especially considering other cases that were brought before the commission where the customers went into a Bakery requesting cakes that displayed messages against homosexuality and the Commission ruled in favor of those bakers to refuse to make those cakes. Here is what the ruling stated: "The government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices." While this is all good, it doesn't settle the matter for other similar cases.
What the ruling did not say is that businesses are allowed to make the same kind of distinctions that Jack made and refuse to provide particular products or services according to their convictions. It seems likely that this issue will be before SCOTUS again at some point in the future. It should also be noted that the opinion made reference to the timeline of the case. Jack made the decision he made before SCOTUS had ruled on Obergefell and made the recognition of same sex marriage the law of the land. In other words, they did not say that a business was free to do what Jack did in the current legal climate, but that Jack was within reason given the legal climate at that time.
While this is a good ruling, it doesn't really come close to settling the issue.
It's true, Jesus taught his followers how to have a happy life. Perhaps one of the most notable places where Jesus did this is in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The famous passage is often referred to as "The Beatitudes." The question is, at least in part, what kind of happiness does Jesus want for you and how do you get it?
Let me get through a little nitty gritty and then I'll get to the good stuff (actually the nitty gritty is what makes it good). The Greek word (μακάριος) translated "blessed" in the beatitudes (you can read the beatitudes in Mt. 5:1-12) has a meaning that is much closer to the word "happiness" or even "flourishing." In other words, Jesus is not pronouncing some kind of divine blessing in this text. The beatitudes are more like proverbial sayings that are talking about general truths or realities. As you read the beatitudes you will also see that they have a eschatological focus. In other words, there is a way of being that leads to happiness and a flourishing life both in the here and now as well as in the life to come. We ought to ask, at least for a moment, how we should understand happiness or flourishing.
I train mixed martial arts (this is why). I frequently show up to my office limping and I almost always have bruises somewhere on my body. At the age of 44 you would think I would be over doing this kind of thing...well, I'm not. The truth is in several ways it feeds me and teaches me lessons that are important for life, leadership, and more. Over the last few weeks I have been helping some of my Muay Thai friends get ready for a promotion test that is often referred to as 60-40. In short it means doing 60 kicks and 40 knees in 3 minutes. Doesn't sound bad and if that is all there was to it, it wouldn't be. Just the other day we were doing around 120 or 130 kicks and 80 or 90 knees in 3 minutes. From a strictly cardio perspective 60-40 would be pretty easy. The test is hard because the holder is also the punisher. In other words this is done in a ring with a holder who is also kicking and punching you. You cannot retaliate with punches and sweeps. Furthermore, some forms of defense are frowned upon and should you use one of those, you will pay the price. Trust me, the test is grueling and painful. The past few weeks I have been helping some of my friends prepare for this test (I have done one and won't have another one for a while). I have been relearning a lesson as I have helped in this process
One of the things Muah Thai fighter does, perhaps more than most other sports, is body hardening. A lot of attention is given to hardening shins. Videos of Muay Thai practitioners kicking trees, concrete posts, and rolling their shins are real. Literally what happens is micro fractures are created and the leg heals stronger and more sturdy than before. It's a lot like getting calluses on your finger from playing guitar or calluses from working in construction, just on a larger and often more painful scale. It's not only the shins though, it is the legs overall, the abs, and even the ribs. My friends and I have been doing some leg conditioning where we basically kick each other in the legs, stomach, and ribs repeatedly. We did it in Muay Thai class last night. I'm walking a little awkward today. So, what's the lesson for life from something some might consider to be a brutal practice?
The lesson is both a cultural critique and an encouragement for parents and culture in general. Body hardening equips the body and the mind to be able to absorb much harder blows in an actual fight. The 60-40 simulates an actual fight; blows must be absorbed and dealt out. Without working on hardening the body, the ability to take the punishment necessary would more often then not result in failure on the part of the fighter. Life is often like a fight. We must be able to absorb blows and failure throughout life if we are also to experience success and victory. Too often we spend so much time protecting our kids that they are not prepared when they are required to absorb the blows life brings us. No amount of effort will result in absolute protection of our children. This is not to say we intentionally harm them in any way, but it is reasonable to put them in situations that have a certain amount of risk involved and it is smart to help them develop mental, spiritual, and physical toughness by pushing them to "play hurt".
If you talk to fighters you will find out quickly that they more often then not go into a fight less than 100% percent physically. They are fighting in spite of injury and pain. It's just part of the game. Likewise, in the world of leadership and life in general, we often have to "play hurt." The question is whether or not enough "body conditioning" has taken place to prepare us to do so. The apostle Paul uses this same metaphor in his letter to Corinth, "Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Cor. 9:26-27). Obviously Paul isn't talking about his own fight career, but about his spiritual life. The principle holds true across all aspects of life. Toughness and grit have become undervalued in our society. We should do our part to reverse the trend.
"Safety First," I've heard that phrase a million times, but usually not in my house. My kids have both said it to me, but not more than a couple of times. Undoubtedly they heard it in school or perhaps someone on TV said it. Safety is, generally speaking, good, but it is not first or second or third. I'm not the only one who thinks this, I'm not some nutcase on the fringe of society saying dumb and stupid things, at least not in this case.
The New York Times recently reported that in Britain some are beginning to put objects in playgrounds that might be considered by some to be dangerous. In these playgrounds you might find a variety of tools like saws and knives. Now certainly these things aren't used without supervision by adults, but they are available nonetheless. You might also find mud, bricks, 2x4s, and other such things. The reasoning is simple, kids have been protected so much that they don't understand risk. Maturity in decision making requires a risk benefit analysis, but how can you make those kinds of analysis without some kind of experience.
The reality is that kids might get hurt once and a while, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned from failures and the consequences of those failures. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises are a good and necessary part of childhood. To deprive children of those things is to deprive them of toughness, resilience, and common sense. I am thankful for my daughters experience of falling of a horse and fracturing five ribs and a bone in her back. She learned what it was to get hurt, what it was to live through it, and what it was to get back on the horse again (literally). Cuts, bruises, scrapes and even broken bones all cary with them important lessons.
It's not just Britain that is making these observations, watch this video from PragerU
It is not true that safety leads to happiness. Quite often the opposite is true. Learning how to accept appropriate risk for the sake of the right kind of benefit leads not only to common sense, wisdom, and discernment, it often leads to happiness.
No parent is perfect and upon reflection there are probably many things I would do a little different. While I haven't necessarily been over protective, I would probably find ways to expose my kids to more appropriate risk if I had to do it all over again. Perhaps we, as a society, can begin to allow a little more risk for our kids.
Students are walking out around the nation tomorrow mostly to demand that gun laws change as a result of the shooting in Parkland. My previous post dealt with the email I got from my school district and how they were going to deal with this issue. I was not happy to say the least, and I'm still not. I want to be part of the solution as much as possible, so here are 5 ideas that are better than a walk out.
Where have the adults gone? This is a serious question! I just received an email from Jefferson County Public Schools telling me that they are working with students to plan walkouts on March 14th. Excuse me? This is absolutely wrong! It's one thing for students to walk out, it is another for the administration to work with them.
I will get into the details of the email and the significant problems with it in a minute, but first a little rant. I am not sending my son to school so he can learn how to walk out. I am not sending my son to school so he can work with the teachers and administration to get out of homework. I am not sending my son to school so he can learn to throw temper tantrums in a more civilized manner. I am not sending my son to school so he can learn how to protest. Quite simply I am sending my son to school so he can learn math, science, history, etc. Stop indoctrinating kids in the schools with all of this nonsense!
Okay, now to the email. It begins by saying, "Here in Jeffco, there are plans for student demonstrations during school and in the evening on March 14th. Though the district takes no position on these types of issues, we are respectful of everyone’s right to express their opinion peacefully." This isn't a bad start, I am glad they are informing me as a parent that these plans exist so I can talk to my son and express my expectations to him. It is notable that they take time to say that they take no position...they are Switzerland. Are they really Switzerland though?
The email goes on to say, "We have worked with our school and student leaders in planning for March 14th - keeping our students as safe as possible and making sure these events are well-organized, orderly, and timely." If you take no position, why are you helping the students plan it? I know what the answer is, but I find it very problematic. The answer is that they want students to be safe while they protest. This is not the schools job! The truth is the schools are supporting the position of the students by HELPING them plan the protest. This is not what taking no position looks like. When you help plan it, you are supporting it, you are taking a position whether you intended to or not. If you want these students to learn how to be adults and how to protest, tell them to do it on their own time like they would have to if they had a job.
A little later in the email 3 expectations are presented, here is the first one:
Yep, I am upset! Where are the adults who tell the students to attend class as expected and if they really want to understand protest then they can experience the consequences of protesting as well. If they want to get signs and protest after school off school grounds, fine. If they want to call the news channels and do interviews, fine. If they want to lobby politicians, fine. If they want to start non-profits to support whatever changes they want, fine. If they want to walk out of class, fine, as long as they are willing to face appropriate consequences like detention, suspension, or whatever.
We are teaching our kids to throw tantrums in a "peaceful, respectful, and tolerant" manner.
Last week a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people including Aaron Feis the assistant football coach who threw his body in front of students to protect them from being shot. Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon, and Scott Beigel are heroes who gave their life to protect their students. Unfortunately they are dead heroes. I wish, with all my heart they were still alive! Specifically I wish one of them or perhaps one of the other teachers who came into contact with the murderer had a gun and put an end to the threat before these teachers and their students died at the hands of that evil human being.
I wish we were talking about living legends rather than dead heroes today. Instead, some continue to believe that keeping soft targets soft is the answer and that if we simply outlaw certain types of guns the shootings will stop. I find this line of thinking to be fanciful and naive at best. Before you "git yur dander up" (I'll admit, mine is already up, but I'm attempting to control it), let's remember their are already 265,000,000 guns in circulation in the United States. No amount of buy back programs are going to significantly reduce this number. Outlaw AR 15's, and its cousins, and their are a 100 other models waiting to take the market share. Maybe you want to go door to door and collect peoples guns, good luck; if you think people aren't going to find ways to hide their guns and keep them you are delusional. Worse this could result in armed conflict. Now, I am not saying there aren't some things that we can do to limit bad guys from getting guns, I think there are. I am suggesting, however, that the best thing we can do to have an immediate impact on the safety of our students is harden the target. Yes, teachers who are willing to go through additional training and carry guns while at work should be allowed to do so and should be paid extra. As the saying goes, "When seconds count, the police are minutes away." This isn't a dig on police, it is just a recognition that they aren't omni-present.
Think about it, we protect our money, politicians, federal buildings, court buildings, movie stars, sports venues, and a whole host of other places with guns and metal detectors. But we send our kids to unsecured sites that have been regularly attacked and we do it everyday. Then we are shocked when things go horribly wrong. Locked doors aren't going to get the job done! Yet, we continue to refuse to put good guys with guns in schools and increase the risk of anyone who wants to attack those targets.
Wouldn't it be better if one of the teachers were being invited to the White House to have a medal pinned to their chest for stopping a would be mass killer instead of mourning their loss of life because of their heroic actions? I for one prefer living legends to dead heroes.
Many school districts across the country are already doing this; in Texas 110 districts allow teachers to carry, in Ohio the Sidney and Mad River districts have trained teachers and put guns in safes throughout the school, and there are many more districts beginning to do the same thing including Hanover district 28 here in Colorado. I will be emailing the Jefferson County school board and the superintendent to show my support for Jeffco to follow suit. It probably won't do much today, but maybe it will at some point. I hope you'll join in making our kids hard targets instead of easy ones.
For 99 years God graced this earth with the presence of Billy Graham. He was a sinful man, but one that was faithful to the calling God gave him to preach and to preach to millions of people. Billy had beautiful feet, that is to say his feet carried the mouth that proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ, the grace, mercy, love, and justice to the world (Rom. 10:15).
Billy was the Pastor to America, he counseled presidents, filled stadiums, and preached to all who would listen. Billy's message was simple, we are sinners in need of the grace and atonement offered through Jesus. As I sit here and listen to one of his sermons I am reminded that he was not shy about preaching about sin. He didn't preach self help, he didn't preach how to, he didn't tickle peoples ears; no, he preached sin, Jesus, redemption, salvation. Oh, that my preaching would be half as good as his. His passing represents a change in the guard. The culture he preached to is different than today's, the church he was part of is different than todays, the world he lived and preached in is different from today's. Nevertheless he recognized that the gospel doesn't change. He once said, "The message I preach hasn't changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn't changed."
No longer are preachers filling stadiums. No longer is there at least some kind of basic understanding of the message Scripture. People have been inoculated, in many ways, to the message of the gospel. Culture has turned its back on the teachings of Scripture that it once embraced even if it did so unintentionally. Who is America's Pastor today? The truth is there isn't one. He hasn't been actively preaching for the last 7 years and he hasn't been his most effective for 20 or more years. During that time America has continued down the road of secularization rejecting truth, morality, and the Judeo Christian worldview as a whole. The world has changed.
The church has also changed. Many churches, in fact some of the most prominent churches, have turned from preaching the gospel, from preaching Scripture, to preaching self-help filled with religious language (1 Cor. 6). Some parts of the church have rejected fundamental truths found in Scripture embracing sinful behavior like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and even the killing of the unborn. Evangelicalism is changing as well. In many ways it is becoming undefinable. The validity of Scripture is being questioned along with some of the fundamental truths of the faith, at least in some circles. The church and evangelicals are being maligned and marginalized by media outlets. They are condemned when they do preach Scripture and hold to Biblical truths. People who attempt to live acording to their religious convictions are sued and taken to court and forced to violate their convictions (Masterpiece Bakery and many others).
The page has been turning for some time, but the death of Billy Graham, at least symbolically, completes that page turn. What will the church become? Who (probably more than one who) will lead the church? Will there be a return to Biblical values in culture or will God judge America? Will we preach the gospel with all our might like Graham and Spurgeon before him or will we fade into irrelevance?
Thank you God for giving us Billy, now give us the fortitude, conviction, and backbone to return to preaching the truth of Scripture no matter what the cost. Give us hearts like Stephen, Peter, Paul, Luther, Whitfield, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Billy.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.