Embodied Souls

“The body is … for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” 1 Corinthians 6:13b

Have you ever thought about what it means to be an embodied soul? Have you ever wondered why we are embodied souls? That we are each more than our physical bodies … and yet we are more than our spiritual souls. We are both-and; physical and spiritual. Have you ever wondered why?

Why did God create us as embodied souls?

And if you believe Scripture, then you know that we will also be embodied souls in the afterlife. Have you ever wondered why?

Jesus was also an embodied soul. He was the embodiment of God Himself. And Jesus” body paid the price for our redemption.

Not only that, but most of Jesus’ earthly ministry was attending to others’ physical bodies: healing bodies from pain, illness & disease; feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty; clothing the naked & freeing people from the chains of prison or paralysis. Jesus spent an inordinate amount of time tending to people’s bodies.

Today’s society suffers from an exorbitant amount of illness. We all know that we live in the biggest health care crisis ever. If we are honest … honest with ourselves and each other … then we will also admit that most of our illness stems from a lack of bodily movement (aka exercise) and poor food quality and nutrition. We are sick because we don’t move be enough or eat well. We are sick because we aren’t caring well for our physical bodies.

I cannot day for sure why God made us embodied souls. But I know that He did, and I know that God does things with purpose. I also know that Scripture is full of stories about Jesus demonstrating great care for the human body.

Shouldn’t we?

Shouldn’t we too demonstrate great care for the human body, starting with our own and with the bodies of those we love?

Body Too

“Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead, give yourselves completely to God ….”  Romans 6:13a

Owning and operating a fitness ministry can be a conundrum.  Why?  Because for many people, “fitness ministry” is a non sequitur.  It doesn’t quite make sense.  It doesn’t quite accord with their world view.  Or it sounds fluffy, superficial or extraneous.

But the truth is that it is guttural and gritty … and it is foundational to our faith.

To walk with Jesus means to eventually give every part of your life to Him.  To walk with Jesus means to live in a constant relationship with God that is vibrant and changing, as He invades more and more areas of your life.  To walk with Jesus means, as some like to say, whole-life devotion.

And “whole-life devotion” means all of you, doesn’t it?

I find it interesting that there are so many debates in the Christian world about how God made us:  “Are we soul AND spirit?”  “Is the will different from the mind or the heart?”  “Is my soul separate from my heart and mind or are they connected … or the same?”

So many discussions about the intangible aspects of self.

So many discussions about the intangible aspects of self when, unquestionable, we have a tangible aspect of self.  A tangible aspect that gets little discussion.

God made us multi-faceted.  He made us, like Him, with several differing aspects that are united within a single whole.  And one of the facets He gave us, unquestionable, is a body.

To walk with Jesus means to give every part of your life to Him.  To walk with Jesus means to allow Him to invade more and more areas of your life.  To walk with Jesus means whole-life devotion.

Whole-life:  Body, Mind & Spirit (or however you wish to divide your intangibles).

Body too.

Will you allow Jesus to invade this part of you too?

 

Losing Crutches

“No manna appeared that day, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered what the Israelites felt like when the manna stopped coming? If you remember, after the Israelites escaped from Egypt and miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they began to disobey and fall away from God. As a result, they were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the disobedient generation passed away. During all that time, God fed them in the desert by giving them manna every morning.

Have you ever wondered what it felt like when the manna stopped?

If it were me, I must admit that I would be afraid that God was upset with me or that I had done something very wrong.

But the truth is that God took away the manna because He was pleased with the Israelites. The Israelites had just crossed into the Promised Land, had just circumcised the existing generation & had reestablished the covenant ceremonies — most notably celebrating the Passover for the first time in decades. God was very pleased with the Israelites. And the manna stopped the next day.

Sometimes we cling to crutches. Sometimes we hold on too long to things that we needed when we were weaker or less mature … but no longer need as we grow. Sometimes it is time to lose the crutches.

God gave the manna to provide sustenance when His children were in the desert with little to no provision. But once they entered the Promised Land — a rich, fertile land, flowing with milk and honey — they no longer needed the manna. God had given them plenty of provisions in the Promised Land.

So He took away the manna.

Sometimes we need to let go of the crutches. Like when we encourage our toddlers to let go of our fingers as they are learning to walk. It is because we love them that we take away our fingers — because it is ultimately for their good that they learn to walk on their own. Because we believe in them and want them to grow strong and capable.

God too was pleased in the Israelites. He believed in them, wanted them to grow strong and capable, and provided all that they needed. So He took away their crutches.

And maybe He is asking you to let go of some crutches too. Maybe you are holding on to something you used to need but is now really holding you back. Will you let it go?

Because I know God loves you and believes in you and wants you to grow strong and capable. Will you let Him take away the manna so that you can eat from the crops of Canaan?

The Word Became Flesh 2

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory — glory as of the only begotten from the Father …”  John 1:14 (NASB) 

In this season, I have been thinking a lot about the birth of Jesus. The manifestation of God on earth. The eternal Word being made flesh.

In the birth of Jesus, God Almighty came to dwell in a human body.

Then I fast forward the story in my mind to the part where Jesus paid the price for our sins in His body. Where His body was whipped and beaten and crucified to atone for our transgressions.  It was Jesus’ earthly body that was abused, sacrificed and killed for us.

Then I fast forward to the part of the story when Jesus was resurrected. And I notice that His body — His dead body — disappeared (it was no longer in the tomb) … And Jesus appeared in a different, resurrected body.

Was the old body was gone?  Was it absorbed into the resurrected body?  Was it fodder for His resurrected body, but just transformed?   Maybe.  I don’t know.  (But I do know that Jesus showed Thomas the nail-holes that remained in the hands of His resurrected body.)

This is a mystery for another day.  But here’s what it all tells me: that our bodies matters to God.

If Jesus is our example, His story shows us just how much our bodies matter to God.  Jesus was God in a body; Jesus’ body bore the penalty for our sins; Jesus’ body was resurrected and transformed.

If Jesus is our example, His story shows us how much our earthly bodies can be used to redeem & transform lives and bring unimaginable glory to God. If Jesus is our example, then His story shows us how much our bodies are part of our stories … and that God longs to use them for His glory and purposes.

May we accept and embrace that reality in 2018!

In Faith and In Hope

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength ….”. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Philippians 4:13 is a great verse to toss around in the Faith & Fitness arena. It’s motivating, inspiring & grounding … and it reminds us of why and for Whom we do what we do.

But have you ever been at a point in your journey when you are not sure you can go on. Have you ever been in places or circumstances that are so oppressive that you aren’t sure you have the strength to continue?

I was serving with my kids the other day at Feed My Staring Children — an amazing non-profit that feeds the innumerable kids who are otherwise starving to death around the world. And on the wall was a Philippians 4:13 sign made by the hands of some of these children. And I wondered: can I do all things through Christ & His power? Can I really? Could I really … if I were one of these children?

The past year or so, for me, has been one of the best AND one of the hardest yet. There have been moments when I have wondered how this Philippians-4:13-thing is supposed to work. When I get to the end of myself and am so exhausted and empty and have absolutely nothing left to give. When I want to say “I can do everything through Jesus’ strength” … yet I cannot. And I am reminded of those kids and that sign. And I cry.

So I bought the sign. It is not a slogan or a feel-good verse. It is gut-wrenchingly painful sometimes.

But I bought it to remind me that if they can, I can. I can get up the next morning in faith and in hope that only Christ can give … and I do my best. And trust God for the rest.

Growing Pains

“I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! … I cry out to You; save me!”  Psalm 119:145a-146a (NLT)

Have you ever watched the parents of a young baby (or been one yourself) as they oversee their young one learn to roll over?  If so, then you know how hard it can be to watch your baby struggle over and over again in learning how to do things (like roll over, hold up her head, or begin to crawl).  To sit by and just watch as they struggle over and over … all the while, resisting the urge to help them or do it for them.  It’s hard.

But we know that if we help them … if we rescue them from the discomfort of learning and achieving these milestones on their own … we ultimately handicap.  By rescuing them out of the struggle, we are actually doing them a disservice.

I was working with a chiropractor the other day whose practice actually centers around “relearning” these basic early movements that we either didn’t learn or didn’t learn appropriately.  Perhaps our parents rescued us too frequently from our struggles, or perhaps we never learned to crawl, or perhaps we were rushed into certain stages too quickly.  Any of these have muscular and structural implications for our long-term well-being.  So, in many cases, we have to undo or relearn some very basic movements.

And all this makes me think of God.

In the Psalms, we watch David beg God to rescue him over and over.  Often today, people ask why God isn’t rescuing them or the world from a particular struggle.  Sometimes, I too wonder why I haven’t been rescued from certain struggles.

Maybe it is because God, in all His wisdom, knows that if He rescues us, He would actually be hurting us.  Maybe God, in all His love and kindness, actually restrains Himself from rescuing us … because He wants us to be fully functioning more than He wants us to be temporarily relieved.  Maybe God, because He loves us so much, suffers with us through the growing pains … so that He can celebrate with us at a later date.

David seemed to know that only God was the Author of all that is true and just.  David’s trust in the Lord was unwavering, even when he wasn’t seeing God’s rescue.

So may your trust also be unwavering … and mine … as we struggle through whatever growing pains the Lord allows.  “Be strong and take courage,” reminds David, “all you who put your hope in the Lord!  For He has shown His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 32:24, 21 (NLT))

 

Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

We all have our own race to run.  

We all have our own weaknesses and unique strengths.  We each have differing proclivities toward sin and temptation.  We have individual gifts and talents given to us by God with specific intentions in mind.  

God is seeking to do a new thing in each of us … but He requires our willing consent.  He requires our willing participation. 

Are we running our own race well?

Are we running to win?

I’ve been asking myself and God the same questions, and as I have, I’ve been prompted with this:

  • Am I guarding my areas of weakness?  Yes, I know what many of them are, but am I moving cautiously in those areas, seeking help & support, and inviting God into those areas?  God knows all about my weaknesses too, and He longs to help me in them.  Am I willing to turn to Him and allow Him to do so?
  • Am I working to establish new habits and practices that make me stronger?  Both in order to capitalize on my areas of strength and also in order to gird up my areas of weakness?  New habits require practice and repetition.  God wants to do a new thing in me.  Do I?  Enough to do the work?
  • And when I fall down and make a mistake, am I willing to get up?  Am I willing to look at and learn from it?  Am I willing to examine my thoughts & emotions around the event?  Am I willing to bring them boldly to throne of Christ?  God already knows all about me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my proclivities to sin. And He loves me anyway. That’s why He died for me.  So I can come to Him with all of me, without fear of judgment or shame.

I want to run my race to win.  Even though I get scared sometimes and even though I mess up, I want to run my race to win.  And I cannot do that if I refuse to be a willing participant with God.

I want to run my race to win.  I believe you do too.

Pondering

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us …. .. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

One of my favorite verses.  Hebrews 12:1.  It has been one of my favorite for years.

And yet God keeps showing new things.

This time, it’s the little “and.”  Not the big “And,” but the little one.

For years, I think I’ve overlooked the first “and” … with the result of thinking that only sin is what God is asking us to throw off.

But it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong — sin definitely slows us down. As the verse says, sin “entangles” and therefore keeps us from running our race well … or sometimes from even running at all.  Sin needs to be thrown off.

But then there is the “and.”  Let us throw off everything that hinders AND the sin….

There are things that hinder us that aren’t necessarily sin.  God wants us to throw off those things too.

Maybe it’s a negative attitude.  Maybe it is fear.  Maybe is a bad habit.  Maybe it’s as simple as inertia.  But it is holding you back.

Whatever is holding me back from what God wants to do in and through my life — those are the things God wants me to throw off.  It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

And so I ponder.  What is hindering my pursuit of God physically … mentally … emotionally?  God wants all of me.  What might be hindering me from giving all of me to Him?

It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

Won’t you ponder with me?

Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

Shining

Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8b (NIV)

One of my favorite things to do when working with clients, is to help them remember why we do the things that we do.  It’s so rewarding to bring people back to the fount of their motivation & their heart’s desire.  It’s also such an honor to be able to help people shape their motivating force.  To point them to Jesus, and encourage them to seek His face.

Because in the exercise and fitness world, God’s face isn’t always so obvious. People exercise and work out for many reasons, some of which revolve around vanity and other worldly pursuits.

But we exercise to honor God.  We exercise to thank God for the bodies He has given us and to steward them well. And while we work out, we seek His face.

Seeking God’s face is wholly different than seeking God’s hand.  Seeking God’s hand is easy. We do it all the time. We ask for His helping hand, His wisdom, His strength — we ask for His intercession on our behalf. But when we seek His face, we seek simply to be in His presence. We seek to see Him more clearly as He is, and to absorb more of Him.  That’s all.

When I go to the gym, I am submitting my body to the work it needs.  But when I go, I also submit the rest of me to the Lord — to seek His face, to hear His voice, to gaze at the only One who can really heal & change & grow me.

And I trust that … just as Moses’ face shown brightly after he met with the Lord on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:29) … all of me might shine a little brighter for His glory with my workout is done.

Food-session 3

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else, and He will give you everything you need.”  Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

“What should I eat?”  A question I hear over & over again — from friends, clients, coworkers, family members, etc.  Our culture has us obsessed with food. Even health-conscious people are obsessed with food. Sometimes especially health-conscious people are obsessed with food.  Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, GMO, low-carb, hi-protein, alkaline, acidic and on and on — the number of diets & meal-plans & recommendations are endless!  It is overwhelming and obsessive!!!

Should we be conscious of what we put into our bodies?  Yes. But we should not be obsessed with it.  Should we try to take care of the bodies God has given us and feed them good things?  Yes … but we should not be consumed by it.  We should be obsessed and consumed with only one thing — God.

For we cannot serve two masters ….

The consumer-packaged food business sometimes makes me laugh.  Do we really think that we can make food that is better for us than God did/does!?  (This takes us to a discussion about supplements and soil depletion … but let’s table that discussion for now.)

Eat what God made for you. Eat what God has provided for you:  food!  Real food!  Ignore the vast majority of what the culture is telling you about food. You will only become obsessed with it.  Instead, be obsessed with God — the living God — and eat what God gives us to eat: real food.  Natural, from the earth, from God’s creation food.

Health

“Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.”  3 John 2 (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish for good health — for themselves and for the ones they love.  A body that works well, that functions and moves as it should, that is not plagued by illness and disease.  I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t long for that.

And yet, I have met many people who are not willing to do what is required to be healthy.

Granted, we live in a world that is working against us.  Especially in America, we live with endless obstacles of GMO’s, processed foods, “modern conveniences” that keep us from walking or working or moving, largely sedentary jobs, and much, much more.

But we still have choice.  We still have choices about what we do with our spare time, what we put into our mouths and what we prioritize.  Culture can flood the market with as many unhealthy options as it chooses, but it cannot take away our choice.

Just like God never takes away our choice.  God wants us to love Him and follow His ways, but He does not force us to.  He allows us to choose.  He allows us to choose who and what we serve.  He allows us choice … because He knows that our choices will reveal our true desires.

So it really comes back to us.  Do we truly want to have good health?  Enough to do what is required?

Enough to eat less junk food?

Enough to eat more vegetables?

Enough to move your body every day?

Enough to listen to and attend to the needs of your body?

Enough to listen to Him?  So that He can heal us?  So that He can heal us and bring us to health?

He can, you know.  It’s right there:

      H e a l t h

Do you see it?

Do you want it enough to do what is required?

He is more than able.  It’s your choice.

Distractions

“But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’” Luke 10:40 (NLT)

If you have ever built or remodeled a home, you quickly learn that every choice, every decision, forces you into a whole new universe to learn and understand. Whether it’s about flooring or countertops or even grout, every decision opens up a universe of options and things to consider. It can be exhausting.

As I continue to venture down the road of health and fitness from a faith perspective, the same thing happens. The expansive detail that exists about exercise … about food and nutrition … about supplements … about rest … and about all the various sub topics under those broad topics … can be overwhelming.

Lately, I find that people want to talk about the topic of food and diet. GMOs, gluten, sugar, fat, hi-protein, lo-carb, paleo, vegan, clean, etc. etc. There is so much to consider within the food topic alone that it can be all-consuming to figure out.

But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be all-consumed about what I eat. I want to be all-consumed with Jesus.

Do I want to eat healthily? Yes. Do I want to care well for the temple of the Holy Spirit that is my body? Yes, I do. But I don’t want to be obsessed with it. I want to be obsessed with Jesus.

So I weed through the information I can, and I do my best with it. I trust God to lead me and guide me even when I don’t know or understand it all … because, after all, He is the One who made me and continues to remake me … and He is in control of all things. I trust Him to honor my desire to please and honor Him with my body, even if I make under-informed choices.

At the end of the day, all He asks of me is to do my best and trust Him with the rest.

And so I do.

Food-session 2

“Then God said, ‘I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'” Genesis 1:29 (NET)
After spending a week in the islands and enjoying local, island cuisine … it has made me think about food in a different way. If you looked for it, local food was everywhere. Of course, the processed, commercial, U.S. food was also present … but if you looked for it, the local food was everywhere.

“Why is the coffee so good here?” my husband would ask. “Because it was grown right over there,” I would answer. “Why is the pineapple so perfectly tart or the seafood so amazingly fresh or the rum so very smooth!?” Because it is all local and fresh and indigenous to the place where we are.

God had a plan when He created the world and made different climates to produce different foods. They were meant to be grown and consumed there. And God had a plan when He created growth and life-cycles. Fruit, for example, is meant to be eaten when it is ripe … and scientifically, a fruit that is ripened on the tree/vine has many more nutrients than those ripened off he tree/vine. Food is supposed to be eaten at a certain stage in its life-cycle.

Why does this matter? Because our “food-session” — our obsession with food — has not only led us to create a bunch of consumable stuff that isn’t really food, but it has also led us to neuter the nutritional value of the real food we do eat, through mass production & distribution. Harvesting food before its time so it can ripen in a crate and be shipped halfway across the globe may offer us variety of food-choice, but it provide us only a fraction of the nutritional value. It isn’t what God has in mind. (Not to mention, chemical, gmo’s, hormones, etc.)

God has a plan. And we keep messing it up.

As a result, we keep messing ourselves up.

God help us.

Aging

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate … for He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (NLT)

Lately I’ve become aware of the effects of aging. Some personally, some within my family, some in other people’s families. But with aging, there seems to come a number of issues that involve our bodies (& sometimes our minds). Our bodies begin to age and weaken and become increasingly susceptible.

So how are we to treat our aging bodies?

The answer might sound familiar: the same way Jesus would. We should treat our aging bodies the same way Jesus would treat our aging bodies — with love, tenderness, compassion & understanding.

God’s mercies are new every day … & so should ours be … even to ourselves.

Instead of comparing yourself to what you used to be able to do (5, 10, 20 years ago!?), assess who and where you are today & start from there.  If you used to bench-press 80 pounds and can only bench-press 20 today, so what!? Bench-press the 20 today! (Or maybe even 10 until you really know you have the muscle stamina.)

Our bodies are not machines.  They are delicate pieces of craftsmanship created by God. Think of them as Stradivarius violins:  of great worth, able to pay beautiful music … but you must learn how to play & care for it properly.

And if you are aging, think of yourself a an aging Stradivarius violin: still of great worth & still able to play beautiful music … and needing a bit more tender-loving care.

Into the Light

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.”  Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Have you ever noticed that when you get hurt or injured, one of the first things you do is bring your hurt part into the light to get a better look at it? Or if your kids get hurt, the first thing we often say is “come here, so I can take a look.” And the second thing (for me anyway) is “let’s move over here where the light is better so that I can see it more clearly.” When we or someone we love are physically hurt, we automatically want to look at the problem area in the light. Why? Because it is hard to see the problem clearly when we look at it in the dark.

And so maybe we should look at all our problems in the light.

Maybe we should bring every hurt, injury and problem we have into the Light so that we can see it more clearly from God’s point of view. Maybe that Paul means in his letter to the church in Philippi. Whatever problems, struggles, hurts or difficulties we may encounter, we will always see them more clearly for what they are (and are not) if we look at them in the Light of God’s Presence. And in the Light of God’s Presence, we can see from a vantage point that is far beyond our own.  In His Light, we can see from a perspective that is much broader and all-encompassing than our own.

 

It is this kind of perspective (or the lack thereof) that is part of the problem with the healthcare system in the U.S.  Every doctor sees only their part.  No one seems able to look at or treat the whole. No one has a perspective broader than their own. (And too few bring things into the perspective and Light of the Lord!)

Sh’maFit is on a journey to offer a health & fitness alternative that takes the broader view, that looks at the whole person, and that brings the whole person into the Light of God’s Presence.

What God has already done will astound you.  If you would like to explore joining our adventure, email shemafit@gmail.com.

Training Ground

The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

Hard times are training opportunities.  Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to another country, imprisoned etc. (See Genesis 37 ff).   What others intended for evil in his life, God used and intended for good.  (Genesis 50:20)  God used seemingly disastrous events to train, prepare, and place Joseph in the right place at the right time for the right reasons.  We all know the story … but when it happens to us, we have the chance to learn it for real and anew.

Challenging times are the perfect time to become acutely aware of and to grow our dependence on Him.  As one author says:  “Challenging times wake you up and amplify your awareness of needing My help.” Challenging times forge our character.  They also prepare the way to God to reveal His glory in greater ways.

So I’m in training (as are a few other sojourners with me).  And I embrace it.  I want to know deep dependence on God.  I want to trust in Him alone to save me.  I want to see His glory revealed in my life like I have never seen it before.  And so I train — listening, watching, waiting, working, responding, obeying, trusting, and moving in faith.

The Lord is the strength of my life!  Not anyone or anything else.  The Lord God Almighty is my strength and my song!  And with Him, I am victorious.  No matter what.

Training ground is holy ground … when we have Him to train us!

Forgetting

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV)

I love this verse. It’s one of my life verses. God so often speaks to me through it. And today is no different.

Today, He speaks about forgetting.

Forgetting the past. Forgetting what is behind.

I don’t think God means for us to totally forget.  At least, I don’t think He wants us to forget in the sense of losing the lesson. Our mistakes, after all, always hold potent lessons for us … and I think God wants us to remember and to learn the lessons our past can teach us. But He does want us to let them go. To bury them in the sea of His mercy. To let Jesus wash them away, as far as the east is from the west.

Competitive athletes learn to do this well. Competitive athletes learn to let go of mistakes so that they can focus on the present. Competitive athletes cannot perform well in the current play, for example, while still beating themselves up for the error they made in the prior play.  They have to learn quickly how to let it go — yet learning from it — and move onto the next play.

Or so I’m told. Not being a competitive athlete myself, I am told that’s how it is.  Personally, I have learned this lesson at a much later stage in life, and I’ve learned it best through yoga. Learning to be present and stay present in the current posture; letting go of the prior posture (whether I did it well or poorly) and staying present in the current one. Whether proud or regretful of the past, I am learning to let it go.  And to stay present with God in today’s moments.

So may we learn to forget as a competitive athlete.  Holding onto the lessons, releasing the rest into the sea of God’s mercy. Washed away by the blood of Jesus.  And pressing on toward what God has called us to do and to be.

Because of all He has done …

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind He will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship Him.”  Romans 12:1 (NLT)

“Offering our bodies to God” is something we don’t talk much about.  We talk a lot about offering our hearts, or our souls, or even our minds.  But our bodies?  It is so foreign to our thinking that it even sounds funny.

But God wants it.  He wants all of us.

And just in case you might think that the word for “body” might, in its original language, mean something broader than our physical body — it doesn’t.  I checked.  The original word is soma, and it means, precisely in fact, the physical body, the flesh.  (In later years, it also took on the meaning of the body of Christ, but again, in the very physical sense of Jesus’ followers being the tangible extension of Jesus on earth.)

God wants you.  He wants your physical body — your flesh — too.  Will you give it to Him?  Will you make it holy and acceptable for Him?

I was reading in Jesus Calling the other day, and it said: “The free will I bestowed on you comes with awesome responsibility.  Each day presents you with choice after choice.  Many of these decisions you ignore and thus make by default.”  (Jesus Calling, September 18)  In other words, God allows me to make innumerable choices each day; many of those opportunities I am not recognizing as such and therefore am not making the choices I should.  I am giving away my choice to habit or thoughtlessness or other people (or worse).

And for so many of us, the body suffers as a result.  The choices we make (or don’t make) about what we are going to feed our bodies … the choices we make (or don’t make) about exercising and strengthening our bodies … the choices we make (or don’t make) about caring for and sanctifying our bodies.  The many choices we don’t make that make our bodies unhealthy, undignified and unglorified.  We, as a church, have forgotten to give our bodies to God.  We, ironically called the body of Christ, have forgotten to make our bodies holy and acceptable to Him.

“Every day presents you with choice after choice.”  So be careful then, how you live … making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15-16).

By the mercies of God, I urge you to offer your bodies to God …

This is your true and proper worship.

Personal Training

“O Lord, you examine me and know ….”  Psalm 139:1 (NET)

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer?  Someone who helps you customize your workouts to your specific lifestyle, tendencies and goal?  If you get a good personal trainer and follow the program, you can see great results.

A good personal trainer will study you.  They will learn your workout history, and they will learn about your injury history.  They will study how your body adapts to training.  They will discover how easily you build muscle, burn fat, grow in endurance, etc.  They will see where your muscles are tight and where they are loose.  They will help you discover where you are imbalanced and what needs to be corrected.  They will also reveal your strengths and show you how to capitalize on those in beneficial and limiting ways.  A good personal trainer get to know the uniqueness of you so that he/she can help you get closer to your goals.

Said differently, a good personal trainer knows your story.

I have heard it said that, in Eastern thought, it is easier to experience God as an all-forgiving God.  You see, in the West, we tend to feel condemnation when we think of God as an all-knowing God.  If God is omniscient, to us in the West, that means He knows all of my flaws, faults and mistakes.  And that is true.  But to a more Eastern-mindset, the fact that God is omniscient means that He knows my story.  It means He understands me.  The fact that He is all knowing means, in fact, that He knows all about me.  He knows why I struggle with the things I struggle with.  He understands what brought me to that place.  He sees it all.  He knows why certain things hurt me the way that they do, because He saw it all.  He walked through it with me.  He already knows my underbelly, and He loves me anyway.  He always has.

The truth is that because He is omniscient — because He knows everything about me and my story — He can sympathize and understand and love me no matter what.  It is because He knows your story, because He understands you in detail, that He pursues you relentlessly and knows precisely how to restore and renew you.

The best personal trainer?  Jesus.  Simply Jesus.  Omniscient, omnipotent Jesus.