Obtaining & Maintaining A Strong Core

core 1

In general, people exercise for one reason — to be healthy. Many take that further and aim for higher levels of fitness and strength. In addition, the types of exercises undertaken are many and varied both for an individual and from one person to the next.

However, one essential focus exists regardless of exercise type if the person hopes to avoid injury and increase strength and stamina. That focus? A strong core. Without it, back pain and lack of endurance — among other issues — limit activity.

The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core” by Harvard Health Publications confirms this truth. The article expresses the importance of a strong core well beyond exercise strength and stamina.

“A strong, flexible core underpins almost every thing you do.”

A Strong Spiritual Core

Core 2As essential as a strong core is to physical strength, even more so is it for spiritual strength. In fact, the first piece of God’s armor Christians are told to put on involves establishing a strong spiritual core.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” (Ephesians 6:14)

In a soldier’s armor, the belt holds the sheath, which holds the sword. This means a soldier cannot easily carry his weapon and have quick access to it without his belt being secure around his waist. Spiritually speaking, the belt of truth provides for properly carrying and quickly accessing the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The world’s approach to truth involves relativity based on opinions with no absolutes. God’s truth, however, involves eternal and unchangeable absolutes uninfluenced by opinion.

Having the belt of truth buckled around your waist means having God’s eternal and unchangeable truth providing you with core strength that influences everything you are, say and do. Many Scripture emphasize and clarify the role of God’s truth, but let’s look at one that gets to the heart of why a strong spiritual core is so important.

“Sanctify them in your truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17, AMP)

Obtaining & Maintaining A Strong Core

Both a strong physical core and a strong spiritual core take hard work to obtain and consistent effort to maintain. And both can make all the difference in a person’s overall health. One Scripture sums up this effort well.

“Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, AMP)

Other versions of this verse say to “be diligent.” This diligence involves basic habits all Christians need to keep their core strong.

  1. Regular Bible Study. My pastor says that in all the cases of Christian leaders he’s personally known who have fallen away from living how the Bible directs, all of them can be traced back to a neglect of regularly studying God’s Word. Knowing he has been in ministry for over 30 years emphasizes the powerful impact of that statement.
  2. Embrace Truth.  Making decisions in and living by faith based on God’s truth is where accurate handling comes into play. A simple question can help assess whether or not you embrace truth as revealed in Scripture in any given situation: Do you know what you believe and why you believe it?

God’s truth — his Word — provides a moral compass, something severely lacking in our world today. It keeps us secure in our faith, and it allows us to combat the lies of the enemy, who does not want that belt to be secure.

“… the devil… was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.” (John 8:44, AMP)

A strong physical core increases stamina, limits pain and advances balance and stability. Spiritually, a strong core removes the limits of our own thinking, which causes pain, imbalance and instability in our lives, by establishing in us eternal and unchangeable absolutes — God’s truth — that will remain uninfluenced by man’s opinion.

DISCUSSION: How do you see the belt of truth applied for Christians today?

Assessing Your Armor-Wearing Habits

Spiritual Heaviness

About every other time I get my teeth cleaned, the hygienist takes x-rays of my mouth. Before she takes them, she puts a lead blanket over my torso to protect my vital organs from radiation. The blanket is heavy, though not uncomfortable since it’s only on me for a matter of minutes. The heavy feeling of the vest, sort of blanket-like but not quite, reminds me of what my spirit feels like when a spiritual heaviness hits even though my daily habits haven’t really changed.

The Panoply of God

Armor of God Word ArtWhen a spiritual heaviness hit me recently, I did my usual self-check. I was exercising regularly & eating well. I was keeping to my daily and weekly spiritual disciplines. Life had thrown us some punches recently, but they by no means were serious enough to create doubt about God’s goodness. If anything, they reemphasized how blessed I truly am.

Yet the heaviness remained.

Reevaluating the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18 for Becoming a Defensive Christian led to a better understanding of what might be happening, the weakness in my defense so to speak. Verse 11 provided some particularly helpful insights.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Words used in other translations in place of “full” include “all of,” “whole,” “complete,” and my personal favorite “panoply.” The definitions of these words together create a better understanding of what is meant by their use in Ephesians 6:11.

  • Full — containing or holding as much or as many as possible; having no empty space.
  • All of — the whole of
  • Whole — comprising the full quantity, amount, extent, number, etc.; without diminution (diminishing, lessening, reduction) or exception; entire, full or total
  • Complete — having all parts or elements; lacking nothing; whole; entire; full
  • Panoply — a complete or impressive collection of things

In the context of this verse, we see that the armor God gives us to put on should be complete, that all the parts should be worn and none neglected. The armor exists not as separate, single pieces; instead, the individual pieces together comprise the whole armor.

Assessing Your Armor-Wearing Habits

In considering the armor of God as a whole rather than only looking at the individual parts, several aspects arise that help make an armor-wearing assessment productive. Start your assessment by asking yourself a question: Can you use the following words to describe your armor-wearing habits?

  1. Consistent: Nowhere are we told to ever remove the armor. Yet, the assumption seems to be that we will remove all or parts of it at times. So, the “put on” exists as a perpetual call for consistency in doing so.
  2. Complete: Already detailed above but certainly worth reemphasizing, we are vulnerable if we do not put on every piece of armor. The directive is ALL, not some.
  3. Christ-like: If you list every piece of the armor and the spiritual qualities they represent, you’ll see the all of who Christ is and what he did. In other words, putting on the full armor involves a decision to become more Christ-like.

When I think of the pre-battle scenes in some of my favorite movies (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avengers), I remember the emphasis made of putting on armor or battle gear of some sort. The scenes remind me that even the most seasoned warriors prepare to face their enemy by putting on what they know will protect them from attack.

We are warriors too, and we must realize the importance of consistently gearing up for the unseen battle that can cause heaviness and steal our focus. Unlike in the movies, though, our battle in the spiritual realm doesn’t end or even abate, which means we must keep our armor on at all times.

But we’re human, and we won’t, so we need to remember to consistently put on all the pieces and realize that we put on Christ at the same time. In no other way are we at all prepared to take a stand against the enemy’s schemes.

DISCUSSION: How well do your armor-wearing habits reflect the qualities described above?

Becoming A Defensive Christian

Defense Wins Championships

Game planSuperbowl 50 brought a lot of controversy and drama. Fortunately, a good game took place too. In fact, the game produced one of the best defensive battles I’ve seen since I started watching football the year of the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Denver prepared by studying tapes of Carolina’s offense, and then they developed their defensive game plan based on what they saw. Good strategy because guess what plays Carolina used during the Super Bowl? Exactly what they’d been using all season. Nothing new. So, excellence in preparation met with amazing talent, and the Denver Broncos pulled out a win few expected.

Our Defensive Strategy

Christian Armor Email SalutationThe championship difference made by the Bronco defense in Super Bowl 50 reminds  me of how a solid defense is crucial to victory in the Christian walk too. (I love how God uses everyday life to speak his truths into my life.)

The Bible certainly calls for a defensive-heavy strategy for success as Christians. Though offense stills remains important, defense certainly receives more options.

There are four specifically defensive weapons in the Armor of God listed in Ephesians 6: the breastplate, shield, belt and helmet. The footwear and the sword could be considered both defensive and offensive weapons.

Defense protects. It keeps the enemy — the opponent — from infiltrating and taking over. Defense keeps the opponent from gaining victory. As Christians, we must become defensive specialists.

Become a Defensive Specialist

While the opponent changes from game to game in football, it remains the same day in and day out for Christians. Since “we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11), we can become defensive specialists too and keep the devil’s point scoring to a minimum. How do we do this?

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)

Maybe you, like me, learned about the Armor of God in Sunday school but never really understood its application until much later in life. Not until I realized the value of a solid defense in other applications did I truly understand how it must also be a consistent focus in my life as a Christian.

Just as John Elway did with the Denver Broncos, I need to rebuild my defense and develop a strategy that will allow me to lead a more victorious life. I’m  tired of being defeated. I’m tired of feeling exposed. Time to fortify my offense through the strengthening of my defense.

What does a solid defensive strategy using God’s armor look like?

Fancy Talk or Powerful Living

6-25-13 Fancy talk “For the kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Some days I feel like I’m really good at talking (or writing) about God and His Word but not very good at living it out. I know the right words to say (and write) and all the Christian lingo, but those do me – or anyone else – no good if my words fail to produce powerful action.  

I’m not even necessarily talking about actions that contradict my words, although those are certainly damaging. What I’m most troubled by in my own life is lack of action. In other words, I often feel like I have a lot of fancy talk but not much – if any – powerful living.

If I want to move from fancy talk to powerful living, it makes sense to increase my awareness of how God’s power comes into my life.

6-25-13 PowerWhat are the sources of God’s power?  

  1. The Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) Gives words & presents opportunity to preach the Gospel.
  2. The Bible (Hebrews 4:12) Reveals complete truth.
  3. Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4) Our example for putting words into action.
  4. Prayer (James 5:16) Prayer plus righteousness gets results.
  5. Other Christians (1 John 5:4-5) Living victory through faith in Christ.

Knowing the sources of God’s power and even making sure they exist in my daily living still mean nothing should I fail to produce meaningful action. And to do that, I need to become strong in God’s power.

How can we become strong in God’s power?   Being strong in God’s power means standing firm, which involves our words being illustrated by our actions. The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), a familiar passage of scripture, gives valuable insight into how we can turn our fancy talk into powerful living.

  1. Christian Armor Email SalutationUse all the tools available to you. Think of all the tools great warriors carried with them. To help you visualize, pick a movie with good battle scenes (like Lord of the Rings) and watch how the warriors not only had a variety of tools on them at all times, but they used all of those tools when the battle got especially tough and lengthy.
  2. Let righteousness (goodness, honesty, fairness, rightness) strengthen your core. Any exercise specialist knows that a strong core is essential for the whole body to be strong. No matter the activity, core strength will increase chances for success.
  3. Use peace as your firm foundation. Peace gives a firm foundation by guarding our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Having a foundation of peace means emotions don’t control you.
  4. Hold up your faith to prevent injury. A strong faith, like a good shield, keeps evil from harming you.
  5. Protect your mind with your salvation. Salvation protects your mind because no one can take it from you. You can only lose it by choice.
  6. Know how to use your one offensive weapon. Watching good battle scenes helps understand the importance of a sword, which seems to be a natural extension of the user. A good swordsman puts in hours of practice and always has his sword with him, ready for use.
  7. Stay persistent in prayer. Constantly be praying, and let the Holy Spirit guide your prayers.

As I look at what the Armor of God does for a Christian’s ability to stand strong, to put words into action, I realize that it’s really a principle for successful living in any area of life. From relationships, education and career to running a marathon, writing a book and building a house, the above steps really provide a path for significance that comes only through being used by God.

DISCUSSION: What are some specific ways we can turn fancy talk into powerful living?

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How to… Take Every Thought Captive, Part 1

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For over half my life, depression held my mind. The strength of its hold fluctuated, but I felt like its captive for so very long. About 12 years ago, God healed me from depression. Since then, He has been teaching me how to take my thoughts captive to prevent not only a relapse but to also lead me toward total and complete victory in this area.

So, how DO we take our thoughts captive? If we consider the word “captive,” it seems to indicate not letting something run loose and be free to fulfill its desires. When a person is taken captive, he can then be used as a tool by his captives to achieve their goals. A captive is subject to the desires, whims and even compulsions of his captors. That’s what happens with our thoughts too.

Let’s focus in on 2 Corinthians 10:5, which clearly indicates not only the need to take thoughts captive but the reason for doing so as well. The version quoted below is a combination of the NASB and the NLT.

“With these weapons, we are destroying speculations and breaking down every proud argument and lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and that keeps people from knowing God. We take every thought captive and conquer rebellious ideas, instead making our thoughts and ideas obedient to Christ.”

What are these weapons? Verse 4 of 2 Corinthians 10 tells us that our weapons are not of this world. Ephesians 6:13-18 gives more specifics on the spiritual weapons available to Christians.

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Also known as the full armor of God, our weapons are truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, scripture and of course prayer. The Message version of Ephesians 6:13-18 says to “learn how to apply them.” In other words, just as a knight must learn how to operate in his armor as if it’s his second skin, so too much the Christian learn to “take up” God’s armor and operate in it in a way that is natural and efficient for battle.

Why do we need to take our thoughts captive? Both 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Ephesians 6:13-18 help answer this question. Paul tells the Corinthians to take thoughts captive that are “raised up against the knowledge of God and that keep people from knowing God.” And he tells the Ephesians to take up the armor of God to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” In other words, we need to fight against our flesh and against Satan in the world of our thoughts to keep them from drawing our focus away from God.

Please see How to… Take Every Thought Captive, Part 2 for a continuation of this discussion.

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