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!

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Fueling & Cleansing

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)

The human body is an amazing creation, comprised of 11 different systems. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about two of them — the cardiovascular system and the respiratory system. These two systems work together to fuel and to cleanse our bodies. Oxygenated blood is pumped by the heart throughout the body, providing oxygen and other nutrients to the body’s tissues. The body uses these elements to produce energy. Simultaneously, the blood carries away waste from the body’s tissues — waste like carbon dioxide and metallic by-products. Deoxygenated blood returns to the lungs, whereby carbon dioxide is removed from the body and blood is reoxygenated.

Amazing , isn’t it!?

When we exercise, our blood and our breath are increasingly important to continue the fueling and the cleansing of our body and its tissues. The body needs more oxygen to meet increased energy demands, which it turn produces more waste to be carried away. The blood and the breath are critical to our life and to our performance.

Funny how the same is true in our spiritual lives as well. Even there, the blood cleanses — that is, of Christ carries away our impurities and sin — while the breath of the Spirit fuels us for good works. (The same Greek word pneuma is used in the Bible to mean both breath and spirit — see May 13, 2014 post, Breathe.)

So the next time you are out on a walk, think about the work of the blood and the breath … and thank God for providing both!

Matter of the Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

The heart is essential not only to life, but also to every form of exercise. And exercise is an important factor in caring for the heart. Clearly, cardiovascular exercise benefits the heart by making the heart muscle stronger, helping it to pump more blood per beat. But do you realize the role of the heart in all forms of exercise? The heart pumps blood throughout our bodies, bringing oxygen and other nutrients to our working muscles. This oxygen is necessary for the body to produce the sustained energy necessary for most forms exercise. The pumped blood also carries away waste products that could otherwise be harmful to our working systems.  Said differently, the heart is designed to fuel & facilitate fruitful behavior while is also purifies & protects from the bad. But we must take care of it.

Similarly, the heart is the center of our spiritual life too. God begs us to guard our heart and to watch over it, because out if it flows everything we do.  David pleads for God to create in him a clean heart so that he can please God in all he says & does (Psalm 51:10-13).  Again, our heart is central to everything we do, but we must take care of it.  It marvels me how God makes the role of our physical heart so similar to that of our spiritual heart!

As you exercise, capture the time. Use it to care for your heart in two ways. Use the time you spend strengthening your physical heart to also cleanse & grow your spiritual heart.  Consider how God might want you to be as proactive about your spiritual heart as you are about your physical heart. It’s an investment well worth it! For from it flow the springs of life!