Functionality

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Inconvenient truth? I’m aging. And so are you. We are all aging. But at some point, the effects of aging seem to accelerate and become increasingly evident. And yet, inside this inconvenient truth is a gift — the gift of clarity.  The gift of clarity and power and purpose behind  why I do what I do.

Exercise and fitness is not about vanity and looking good. Oh, perhaps has been at some point in my journey … but exercise and fitness is about faith and functionality.  It’s about honoring God and remaining available.

As such, the discipline of exercise is like the discipline of a daily quiet time with God.

When we meet with God every morning, we connect with the source of Life — the source of all Power and Truth and Love.  We get plugged into God.  Nice as it is, the point is not just to have a precious oasis with God; the point is to connect with God so that we can bring Him into the rest of our day … into all aspects of our life.  The point is to connect with Him so that we can be more engaged and effective in the rest of our day.

When we exercise our bodies, we are exercising to keep our bodies functional and effective.  Two effects of aging are a loss of muscle mass and a loss of flexibility.  As a result, we lose mobility and functionality. But if we exercise & stay fit, we can maintain strength and mobility; if we keep th discipline of exercise, we can maintain flexibility & good functionality.  We carry the results of exercise out into the rest of our day and all areas of our lives, making us more engaged and effective.

The discipline of the Quiet Time and the discipline of exercise.

Both are meant to bless us, yes … but even more so, both are meant to help us be a blessing to God and to others.  Both are organically connected with the whole of our lives: relationships, struggles, opportunities, uncertainties, etc.

We should use them both more faithfully.

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It All Starts Here

Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it!”       Psalm 139:14b (NLT)

If only.

If only we knew it so well, our world would be a different place.  For I believe Psalm 139 lies at the crux of our spiritual formation.  And until the church can get it right, we cannot be our biggest and brightest to the rest of the world.

Psalm 139 talks about how intricately and intimately God made each of us and knows each of us.  It speaks very practically about the love God has for us and how that love has been expressed in the wonderful creations that we are.  “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex — how well I know it!” (Ps. 139:13-14). And this isn’t the only place God expresses this sentiment.  One of my favorites is Ephesians 2:10, where we are called God’s workmanship, God’s masterpiece, God’s poiema — God’s poem.

But we don’t know it.  By and large, we don’t know that at our core.  Because if we did, we would value ourselves differently.  And if we valued ourselves differently, we would interact with ourselves differently.  If I value the masterpiece that God made in me, I will honor it and care for it and learn to love it — for no other reason that because God made it for me and gave it to me, and it is wonderfully made.  And if you believed it, you might interact with yourself differently too.

I’m not talking about arrogance or self-love in that way.  (Arrogance, by the way, is often a cover-up for insecurity, anyway.)  I’m talking about a deep knowing that God created me carefully and thoughtfully, and that God loves me more than I can ever comprehend.

And once I know these truths — that God made me a wonderfully complex masterpiece — then I can start seeing and knowing you as a wonderfully complex masterpiece … and I start interacting with you with more honor and dignity.  And then the church — oh what a beauty the church would be!

But it all starts here.  How well do you know the wonder of God’s workmanship?

How much do you really believe that God loves you?  How much do you really believe that you are God’s poem?  Your actions toward yourself and towards others reveal the answer.

The Air We Breathe

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. … I will put breath in you and you will live.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:5-6 (NET)

Have you ever exercised until you were almost out of breath?  Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you?  If so, you have experienced the preciousness of breath.

Because otherwise, we take breath for granted.  Breathing is as natural as, well, the air we breathe.  And yet, when God formed mankind, He “formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).  Paul reiterates in the book of Acts that God Himself gives life and breath to everything and everyone (Acts 17:25b).   And the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that when these bodies die, “life’s breath returns to God who gave it.”  (Ecc. 12:7b).

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for breath in both Ezekiel 37 and in Ecclesiastes 12 is the word ruach which can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.”  Also, the Greek word for breath used in Acts 17 (and elsewhere in the New Testament) is the word pneuma which also can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.”

Hmmmm.

Maybe the Spirit is as essential to our being as is breathing.

Maybe our very being is more integrated with God’s being than we might image.

Maybe God is not closer than the air we breathe; maybe His Spirit IS the air we breathe.

Maybe when we breathe, we invite the Spirit of God in to give us life.

So the next time you are working out and begin to notice your breath, use it as a prompting to notice the Spirit.  And the next time things get hard, and you are tempted to hold your breath — breathe!  Especially then, breathe.

And when the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'”  (John 20:21b-22).