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.

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?

 

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.

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.

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.

Counting the Cost

“But don’t begin until you count the cost ….”. Luke 14:28a (NLT)

Goals.   Have you ever set a goal for yourself and then backed away from it? Maybe it was about running a race, or maybe it was about starting a new dietary regime, or maybe it was about developing a new habit or quitting an old one. You were excited when you started, but somewhere along the way it got more difficult than you realized it would. You failed to count the cost. You failed to count it accurately. I do it too sometimes.

 

Some goals do not have a very high cost. Others do.  And usually the bigger goals — the higher goals — have a higher cost.

 

But the best things are worth it, aren’t they?

 

As I sit on the eve of one of the highest goals I have ever dreamed — one of the biggest assignments God has ever given me — I am soberly counting the cost.  Extremely grateful to have the chance, but not wanting to arrive at midpoint, realizing that I failed to count the cost accurately.   There are things I have to die to … and things I will have to carry … to do this journey well.  Am I really willing?  Really?  For the long haul?

 

As a follower of Jesus, I look to Him as my example. He had the highest goal of all — to redeem and save mankind.  He also paid the highest price.  And for Him, it was  worth it.

Am I willing?  Yes.

Am I scared?  Yes.

And having counted the cost to the best of my ability, I claim and cling to the truth of Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can you.

 

Unity

“You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5 (NET)

Wholeness.  Personal wholeness.  Integration of our whole selves.  Complete alignment.  Internal harmony; external radiance.  We all want that, don’t we!?

And God wants it for us, too.

He made us for it.

To radiate His glory.  As image-bearers.

If asked to paraphrase Deuteronomy 6:5, I would say that God is asking us to love Him with everything that we are.  Inside & outside.  Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical — everything.  Or as Sarah Young writes: “I want to be Central in your entire being. “(See June 3, Jesus Calling).  Central in everything.  Every part, every aspect.

Of course, we will never achieve it perfectly on this side of life.  That’s why we need Jesus.  But we can aim for it.  We can strive towards it, knowing that every effort counts.  Knowing that God is cheering us on because He wants it for us too.  And if God is for us, who can be against us!?

To give God my heart.

To give God my mind.

To give God my body.

To give God everything.

Wholeness.  Unity.  Integration — within ourselves and with God.  To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  To pursue peace — within and without — today and everyday.

Amen.

Spirit Come

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (NIV, NET)

My ministry work is about enfolding the body into our spiritual journeys.  It is about including our physical selves in our spiritual lives.  The body — your body — in an integrated part of your “self” … and God longs for your whole “self” to be devoted to Him.

Yet, broadly speaking, the body is largely excluded from our relationship with God.  Most of us, if we consider our physical selves at all in our spiritual journeys, might give it a secondary … or tertiary … role.

Which makes me think of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is an equal and integrated part of the Godhead. (I know every Christian reader would intellectually agree.)  And yet, if you are like me, the Holy Spirit gets a secondary … or even tertiary … role in my life.

For example:  If God the Father said something to me, I would jump to it. If Jesus suggested something to me, I would run after it. Yet daily … often multiple times a day … the Holy Spirit prompts me about things, and I only occasionally follow through. A 50% response rate, perhaps on a good day.

It seems that I don’t give equal weight to the Holy Spirit who is undoubtably an equal member of the triune God.  I grieve Him all the time.  (Spirit, forgive me.)

Our God is the great three-in-One. And He made us in His image, and we too are three-in-one.

May we learn to give equal weight to the members of the Godhead in our daily life of following God …

And may we learn to embrace and include all of our own “members” in our daily life of following God.

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.

Integrated

His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?'”  John 9:2 (NET)

I was talking today with a church leader about the implications of a person with a Western worldview reading a text written by ancient Middle Easterners.  The Bible, of course, was written by ancient Middle Easterner’s who write from an ancient Middle Eastern worldview.  Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis read the Bible from a modern Western worldview.  And as I’m sure you know, one’s worldview is not an overt aspect of how we perceive and interpret things. Instead, a worldview is very subtle and covert, but it colors everything we see and interact with.

The distinctions are many, I am sure. But in my studies thus far, I’ve become acutely aware of this:

  • A Western worldview is a very dualistic lens. It sees the inner and the outer/external journey as separate and distinct, almost antagonistic against each other.
  • An Eastern worldview, especially and including an ancient Middle Eastern worldview, understands a person to be very integrated, body mind and spirit as one.

As such, many Westerners are perplexed by passages such as the one in John 9.  What a silly question to one with a Western worldview.  But for one with an Eastern worldview, the question is obvious. Physical sickness can and often does begin with the mind and soul.  Even Western medicine is beginning to admit the inherent connection between inner and outer aspects of self.

Try reading the Gospels with an Eastern worldview in mind. Try looking at church history with the overtones of an Eastern worldview. You will see things differently.

  • Like the laws of the Torah that make a person clean or unclean by what they eat and what they touch.
  • Like the woman who only needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe to stop a perpetual bleeding.
  • Like how lepers were cast out of cities to survive on their own, not only because of the physical contagion, but also because if their perceived spiritual depravity.
  • Like how the early church was the one to start the concept of hospitals … because they knew that caring for the body was also caring for the soul in some deeply mysterious, God-breathed way.

May we all learn to embrace our God-breathed integratedness and, in the process, come to know and reflect our Creator more clearly.

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.

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.

To Heal

“This is the kind of fast I want.  I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke.”  Isaiah 58:6  (NET)

Jesus came to heal, to set free, to redeem.  The heart of the Almighty is to heal, to grow, to set free, to redeem.  The Bible is emphatic that God is making all things new.

What’s cool to me is that our bodies were designed with the same objectives in mind.  God made our bodies with His eternal attributes in mind.  The bodies that God designed for us are, for example, designed to heal — they are able to heal themselves from wounds or injuries inflicted upon them.  The body, for example, is constantly renewing itself — the skin renewing itself every 28 days, liver every 5 months, bones every 10 years, etc.  God made our bodies in ways that reflect His amazing glory!  Even though imperfect and aging, they still constantly reflect some of the glory of the One who made them.

And, by and large, the body does this automatically.  Cells respond immediately to start forming blood clots, for example … to bring extra blood and nourishment to the injured area… to swell and protect the injury  … to being the healing process.  No arguments, no negotiating, no denial.  Just immediate action to heal and renew.

And thank God for that!  Because if the other aspects of our lives are any example, most of us would be totally out of commission due to innumerable accounts of denial and refusal to accept that we have been hurt.

To be healed means you first need to admit you are hurting.

To be renewed means you first need to accept that you need renewing.

To be set free means you first have to acknowledge that you are truly in captivity.

To be redeemed means you first believe that you need a Redeemer.

May we see more fully the inherent beauty of being healed and renewed such that we eagerly embrace our brokenness.  He IS making all things new.  Will you join Him in His work?

 

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.

Lent

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Today is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. The day when a lot of people choose to “give up” something for the Lenten season.

What’s interesting to me is that most people, including myself, usually give up something that they know is bad for them. Something that has begun to have too much power and sway. Whether it’s coffee or chocolate, t.v. or technology, alcohol or annoying habits — we choose to give up (at least for the season) some behavior that has destructive power.

What’s also interesting to me is that a vast majority of the things “given up” have to do with the body. Not all, but the vast majority of the things “given up” for Lent have to do with how we are mistreating or not-honoring our bodies. Whether it is something we keep ingesting (as in food or drink), or something that keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns (e.g. keeping us sedentary or compromised) … we tend to release things that hinder the potential of this gift of body.

This is interesting to me because it means that somewhere, deep down, we know that this body of ours — this one body we have been given — IS a gift from God that needs to be honored and cherished. Deep down, we know that it deserves better. Deep down, we know that God has given us something spectacular — that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) — and that we are not honoring the gift as we should.

And if we are not honoring the gift properly, we aren’t really honoring the Giver properly either.

Which leads to the second reason I find our Lenten habits interesting. When Jesus spent His 40 days fasting in the wilderness, it wasn’t to give up something that He was doing that He knew was bad for Himself. It was to prove His dependence on God alone. It was to prove that God alone was sufficient. Jesus didn’t need to look to anyone or anything else but to God alone. Even Satan didn’t have anything to offer Him that was better than what God had to offer!  (See e.g. Luke 4:1-13).  Jesus fasted in the wilderness because God alone was enough.

So when we choose today what to “give up,” may we choose not only to honor the gift by giving up something that harms it … but may honor the Giver by replacing it with the all-sufficiency of God.  May we honor the gift and the Giver by trusting in His provision and power alone.