Speechless

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself ….” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NLT)

This verse renders me speechless. Speechless and in awe … for several reasons.

First because it talks about the fact that God cares about my body. This is something that our culture — even our churches — talk little about. But here, we are reminded that God cares about our bodies.  He cares what we do with them, how we treat & interact with them, even how we view and understand them.

Moreover, this verse says that our bodies do not belong to us.  For Christ-followers, even our bodies are not our own!  I think most of us interpret this verse as saying that our hearts or spirits or minds or dime other intangible aspect of our lives belong to God … but this verse clearly indicates that God also bought our bodies. A sobering thought … particularly in a culture like ours where the one thing that we feel like we can control and own is our own body. But for Christ-followers, even our body belongs to Him. I surrender all …

Finally,  there is the Temple reference. (Oh, to be able to read that verse through the mind of an ancient Jew!)

We have nothing equivalent to the Temple in American culture. We have nothing equivalent to the Temple in Western Christianity. But in the Bible, the Temple was an awe-inspiring, most holy place.  It was the place where God dwelled, where the Holy of Holies was, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  Only the priests could enter the Temple after ceremonial cleansings and sacrifices. And the Holy of Holies could only be entered by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. One day a year.  It was that holy.

The words used to describe the Temple — sacred, holy, set apart —  are  words  we don’t even use in our culture because we have so little to attach them to ….

But in this passage, God calls us His Temple. He calls our bodies the Temple of His Holy Spirit.

And it renders me speechless.

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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))