Exercise as Worship I

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

(By a very slight margin, you guys voted to hear about exercise as worship first. My next post, however, will address nourishment.)

Exercise as worship!? Isn’t that an oxymoron, you say? No, it’s not. Exercise can be an amazing pathway to meet with God. Here are a few tips to start:

1) Enter your exercise time in a posture of prayer. By that, I mean to begin your exercise time with an expectancy to meet with God. Just as you might enter a church service, a prayer meeting, a small group experience or serving opportunity … enter your exercise time with a desire and expectancy to meet with God. Set your thoughts on things above and look to Him and for Him during your workout. Talk to Him … or simply quiet your mind and listen for His still, small voice.

2) Equip yourself with a personal, inspirational verse. Mine is Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Whenever I’m getting tired, bored or just want to quit, I recite Philippians 4:13 to myself. When I am trying something new or hard and begin to doubt myself, I recite Philippians 4:13 and trust Him to help me do my best. There are many great verses. (Caution: this is not permission to try to do stupid stuff, calling on Jesus to help you. This is within the context of reasonable challenges appropriate for your current fitness level.)

3) Run your own race. By that, I mean to forget about the people around you and what they are doing. Don’t look at the speed they are running or the amount of weight they are lifting.  Run your own race. Choose appropriate challenges for yourself and stop comparing. It’s like what Jesus said to Peter when Peter asked about the fate of another disciple; Jesus said, “what’s that to you? You follow me.” (John 21:22). This is not a comparative race.  Focus only on you and God when you workout.  You have your race. They have theirs.

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Acts of Worship

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — that is your true and proper worship.”   Romans 12:1  (NIV)

In view of the mercy that the Father has extended to us through Christ — in light of all we have received in Christ — Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, as an act of worship. Is it odd to you that the body can be offered as an act of worship?

So often, the messages I have received from the Christian community is that the body is “flesh,” evil … or at the very least, insignificant. But I don’t believe that is Biblical. The body is a beautiful and incredible instrument that God has given and entrusted to us. It is in and through this amazing body that anything and everything we do flows. And I believe the way we care for our bodies can truly be an act of worship.

How? As with most things, it starts with a perspective shift.  A renewing of your mind.  As Paul continues in Romans 12, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Then we begin the work of integrating our renewed perspective into the daily way we do things.  As with any new spiritual practice, it takes intentionality, focus and repetition at first, but it soon becomes second nature.

So the first step is to ask God to help you renew your mind about the way you interact with and treat your body.  God is able to renew and restore damage done by others or by our own hands!  Then, take a step of faith consistent with your renewed perspective.  In the coming days I will begin posting some helpful ideas and practices in two key areas:  how we nourish and how we strengthen our bodies as spiritual acts of worship.  Use this poll to let me know which you want to hear about first.  

SHEMA

“Hear o Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

The SHEMA is an ancient Jewish prayer that is arguably one of the most important prayers is Judaism.  It is recited in the morning and evening prayer services.  It begins with “Hear o Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

As Christians (Judeo-Christians, to be specific), we have come to understand  The Lord as three in one.  God is one, and yet God is triune — Father, Son and Spirit.  There are three aspects, or three faces, of God … yet God is still one.  I believe that one of the ways God made us in His image is that He made us triune.  We too are one and yet triune — body, mind and spirit.  And God has asked us to worship and love Him with all of who we are.  God desires for us to love Him with our heart and our soul and our strength — with our complete triunity.

God didn’t have to make us with a body.  But He did.  God doesn’t have to give us a new body in the afterlife (why not let us be all spirit?), but He will.  (See e.g., Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:45-58, & 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.). For His reasons, God values the body.  And he asks us to love Him with all that He made us to be.  Let us worship and adore God with this body, while we still can.