Faith Exercise 2

“So Moses thought, ‘I will turn aside to see this amazing sight.  Why does the bush not burn up?’  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him … ”  Exodus 3:3-4a (NET)

As we walk through this season — a season dripping with meaning and pregnant with power and purpose for life change — we are also bombarded by so much busyness.  So many tasks and chores and stress.  And all those things that bombard us have the tendency to drown out the meaning and the potential for purpose and power.

Moses had many responsibilities too.  He was out shepherding a flock — and while that might sound slow and peaceful, it is actually a very stressful job.  Looking for food and water for the entire flock, keeping track of the multitude of sheep, staying on constant lookout for predators, protecting the sheep, inspecting each of for injuries or parasites, getting them to a safe place to rest each night, etc.  Moses was busy.  But he noticed the bush that burned.  He had the awareness to notice the bush that burned but was not consumed.  More importantly, Moses took the time to turn aside and look.

Taking the time to turn aside and look is a faith exercise.  It is an act of faith because it means setting aside the lists of tasks and responsibilities, and trusting that all will be well if you choose to focus on the things that really matter.  It means putting first things first, and letting the rest fall as it may … and resting in the knowledge that what matters most was tended to.  And that is enough.

The meaning of Christmas and the purpose and power provided through the Christ-child awaits for each of us … IF we can slow down enough to focus on what really matters.  And I pray that each of us will exercise the faith to do so.

And as you begin to turn toward the ritual of New Years resolutions, know that it too can be more than a meaningless ritual.  It too can be a practice of turning aside.  It can be an opportunity to strengthen your resolve to put first things first in the new year.  It can be the chance to put a step of faith behind a seemingly “small word” from God.  It is a time to choose to obey.

Is it for a healthier new year?  Is it a commitment to give God all of you in 2016?  Is it a desire to turn your body into a temple for the living God?  Every “small word” carries the seed of change and growth — but we need to participate.  So,  despise not the day of small beginnings.  Just begin.

What if Moses hadn’t turned aside to look?

 

With Hands Lifted High

“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”  Lamentations 3:41 (KJV)

This verse comes in the context of repentance.  The nation of Israel was in exile, being disciplined by God.  Jeremiah (the author of Lamentations) was pleading for God’s people to “turn again in repentance to the Lord” (v. 40) … & to lift up their hearts with their hands unto God.

Among other things, what strikes me in this passage is the plea to lift their hearts and hands to the Lord.  To return not just their devotion and affection, but to turn their physical selves back to the Lord.  It echoes what I believe God wants — all of us.  Yes, God wants our hearts.  But He also wants our physical selves.  He wants all of us.

For decades, the church has (at best) forgotten about including our bodies in our devotion to God.  (At worst, it has vilified the body as pure “flesh” and intentionally excluded it.). But I believe God wants more.  I believe God wants all of us … and I believe Scripture as well as the history of God’s people reveals that.

When God first set the nation of Israel apart as His people, He gave them laws that covered all aspects of their lives.  As it pertains to their bodies, the Torah included detailed descriptions of what foods to eat and not to eat, what to touch and what not to touch, where to go and where not to go, when to rest and when not to rest, etc.  God included the body — our physical selves — in His description of how His people should live.

The early church carried forward this belief that God wanted all of us.  Although the coming of Christ set us free from the food laws and other aspects of the Torah, we were not set free from loving God holistically.  The early church promoted this idea by making Gluttony and Sloth two of the seven deadly sins.  (Catch that?  Two of seven.  Almost 30% of the deadly sins pertained to food-intake and exercise.  Hmmmmm.). (See also posts dated 5/7/14 and 5/9/14, Nourishment as Worship 2 and Exercise as Worship 2, respectively.)

So, with this in mind, I plea for every Christ-follower to join me in lifting our hearts and our hands up to God in heaven.  Together, let’s return health and fitness to the realm of the sacred … because God made it sacred and declared it good.  And He is worthy of all of us!

Training 

“I press on ….”  Philippians 3:14(a) (NIV)

Some days are like that.  Seasons in life can be like that.  And sometimes it seems that all of life is like that.  Requiring me simply to press on.

Sports training and conditioning can be like that too.  Whether it’s for a triathlon, marathon, or plain-old health improvement … some days we just need to press on.  We need to make ourselves run the required miles for the day, swim and bike for the day, or simply just get up and go to the gym even when we don’t feel like it.  Why?  Because we know it’s all cumulative. We know that, ultimately, we are in pursuit of a bigger goal and that we might not reach it if we let today’s feelings get in our way.  We press on for the goal (of the triathlon or marathon or whatever it is).

Spiritually, we are in training too.  Life on earth is a training ground for what is to come — a victory that Christ has already won for us, and yet (in some inexplicable way) we partner in and participate in as we journey through life.  We press on … sometimes even when we don’t feel like it … because ultimately we want to prove ourselves grateful and worthy of all He has done for us.  We want to be faithful to the One who created us and gave His all for us.  We keep doing what He has told us is right and good (and avoiding the opposite), because He has told us it pleases Him.  And we want to please Him.

So today, I press on.  I press on, even though it’s hard today.  I press on because I know that one step forward and two steps backward is really one step in the wrong direction.  I press on, as Paul says, “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

And I hope you press on too.