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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

Journey On

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My loving eye on you.  Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come with you.”  Psalm 32:9 (NIV)

This past Spring, I had the opportunity to talk with middle schoolers about what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and how to live in the reality that each of us are God’s masterpieces. And as I continue to sit in this vein of Truth, God continues to speak.

There is only one “me” in the universe, and there will only ever be one “me” … and there will only ever be one “you.” Just as no thumbprint or no snowflake is exactly alike, there will never be someone just like you. Only you. Only me.

And because of that (and other factors), there will only be one journey like mine. I have a unique journey, and God wants to walk my journey with me. He cannot walk my journey with anyone else, because my journey is the only one like it. “I cannot walk this journey with anyone else,” God said to me yesterday. “This journey is just ours, and I want to walk it with you.”

This journey —  your journey —  we get to co-create together,” He continued. “You and Me. We create this together, because I have allowed you to co-create your journey with Me.” And as I reflected, I knew it was true — not only in the realm of life-choices and decisions, but even in a much more minute, existential way — the food I eat, the structure and composition of my body through exercise, etc.  (See, Quantum Physics (5/19/16 entry) & The Body is More (1/28/16 entry) for more).

As I looked at the path behind me, I could see many places where God was evident and others where He was more hidden, yet still present; I could also see the impact of many of my own decisions — both good and bad.  As I looked ahead to the path yet trodden, a sense of eagerness and anxiety arose in my stomach.

Looking ahead to the yet-created part of my journey, I knew that God was inviting me to co-create the journey in an even more intentional way.  In a deeper, richer, all-encompassing way.  Yes, in the macro — in the life-choices and decisions … but also in the micro — how I live and breathe and eat and move and grow.

God, in His glory, grants us the power to co-create ourselves and our journeys with Him — whether we know it or not.  Whether we choose to embrace it or not, He has given us the power to co-create our journeys, and we exercise that power every day.

Exercise it wisely and intentionally.

Exercise it in the macro and the micro.

Embrace your God-given creative power.

And do it with Him.

Every day.  Every moment.  Every breath.

Quatum Physics

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17:28a (NIV)

I never studied quantum physics in school, but I am starting to… despite its intimidating aura.  And as I wade into this vast topic, I am learning that there are some basic principles that underlie all of quantum physics.  The first is this (in laymen’s terms):  everything in the universe has both a particle nature and a wave nature.  Said differently, everything in the universe has a static nature and a moving nature; everything has a form and an energy.  In this sense, God created everything as an oxymoron — everything has two truths about it that seem not to go together.  Isn’t God cool!?

As I reflect upon this, it immediately strikes me that we, too, were made according to this principle.  We have both a particle/static nature or form … and a wave/energy nature or form.  We have body and soul.  God made us that way.  Even quantum physics would agree.

And yet, the Western church at large generally ignores one part of how God made us.  In my experience, the church tells me that only my soul matters to God & that I should focus all I can on developing my soul.  I wonder what God thinks about our neglect (or abuse) of our particle nature?

Add to that the truth that God allows us to be co-creators with Him.  On the macro-level (as in the course of our life choices) — yes, we partner with Him.  But also on the micro-level (which is what quantum physics addresses), we partner with Him too.

Take, for a given, that God holds each of us & our atoms together as a whole (which I increasingly believe, because neither quantum physics nor any other  scientific approach can fully explain how I am held together, yet separate and apart from you or from this computer or anything else).  As God literally holds my very being together, He also allows me to partner with Him in my very existence.    Because every cell in my body is going through its own life-cycle (e.g., dying, reconstituting, generating or regenerating), whatever I ingest are the building blocks for my ongoing constitution.  God is partnering with me even in what He holds as my physical form.  What I eat and drink comprise my constitution; if and how I exercise affects my constitution, makeup, metabolism and potential.  The “me” that God is holding together on a moment by moment basis is greatly influenced by what I contribute.

Given that we very literally live and breathe and have our being in God … because God very literally holds us and our particles together … our daily participation in the co-creation of our own life is a sacred activity.  I believe God thinks so too.

Food-session

Why pay money for something that will not nourish you?  Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing!”  Isaiah 55:2 (NET)

Would you put maple syrup in your car instead of gasoline?  “But it tastes better!”  Maybe so, but the car won’t run on maple syrup.  In fact, you might end up ruining your car!

Look around.  That’s just what we (as a society) are doing.  Filling our mouths with for that tastes good, but does not provide us with the nourishment we need.  Food that ends up ruining the marvelous creation that God made.

Food was meant to be fuel for the body.  Food was intended to serve the body and provide it what it needs for optimal performance.  But our society has completely inverted that formula.  For many, the body is at the mercy of food.  We are food-obsessed.  The pleasure of our taste-buds has taken first priority, and nutrition and nourishment have taken a back seat (heck, they may even have been tossed out of the car by now)!

Join me in the fight against this obsession with food (our “food-session,” for short).  Reclaim the body as God designed and intended. Reclaim food as fuel — as nourishment for your body — and not as the destroyer of God’s good creation.  Reclaim God’s intended order that food is for the body not the other way around.

It’s going to be a tough fight.  I have a 8-year-old and a 6-year-old.  I tell them often that we eat for our bodies, not for our mouths.  On certain days, I have them look at “My Healthy Plate” and tell me what categories of intake they are lacking for that day.  Our kids are surrounded by more than junk food; they are bombarded by crap-food (pardon me).  Sometimes it’s distressing, but all the more reason that we cannot give up the fight.

Will you join me?  There’s still time to make a difference and show our Lord that we really do value the very good creation He gave us.

Gifts

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give ….” Luke 11:13 (NIV)

I have been blessed with two amazing children. While I am trying to raise them so that they are not attached to worldly things, I do enjoy giving them gifts. Giving good gifts brings joy to me and to them.

However, when I give them gifts, I am often met with varying reactions.

  • Occasionally the gift is rejected … or worse, thrown across the room. My heart sinks.
  • Sometimes the gift is courteously received but then sits on the shelf collecting dust. My heart is saddened, but relieved that at least some level of respect was shown.
  • Sometimes the gift is loved … at first. Then as time goes on, the kids tire of the gift. I sigh, wondering what they might treasure.
  • Other times, however, the gift is really loved. I know when the gift is really loved, because the gift is cared for, treasured and loved no matter how long they have it.

God has given us an amazingly good gift in our bodies. Our bodies are so incredibly intricate and complex (see e.g., last week’s entry Fueling & Cleansing). I often wonder how God experiences our response to this amazing gift He has given us. Do you think He thinks we love it!? What do our actions toward it reveal about our true response?

If you have kids, I know you’ve experienced this: your kid wants a new (fill in the blank toy) because he trashed the last one. And you think: ” you’ve got to be kidding!? Why would I buy you a new one when you couldn’t take care of the old one!?”

Hmmmmm….

God gives good gifts. He has given you an awesome gift for you to care for, grow and steward. Show Him how grateful you are!

Cherish Life

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.  He created the earth and everything in it.  He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world.”  Isaiah 42:5 (NLT)

God is the creator of life.  He brought living creatures into the world and breathed His life into dead soil to make the first man.  Life is personal to God.  It precious to Him.

And so it should be precious to us.

That’s why I love organizations like Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org) — an organization that seeks to feed both body and soul of the millions of children around the world who are starving.  Literally starving.  These are kids who would love to grow and develop and play and celebrate life.  They would love to use the body that God has given to them and discover its potential … but the lack of food resources has stunted their ability to do so.

Those of us in the “developed” world have more than an abundance of opportunities to care for the bodies God has given to us.  We have an abundance of food resources … and yet many of our bodies remain neglected of what they really need.  Most of us have the ability to care for our bodies well, but choose not to (by action or inaction).  Oh, how the children of the underdeveloped world would love to have the ability to care for their bodies as we do.

So here’s my plea: cherish the life that God has given you and don’t squander the opportunity you have to care for it.  And while you do, seek opportunities to help those who can’t.  Life is precious.  Cherishing it is a choice.

True Confessions

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”  Exodus 20:3 (NIV)

True confessions?  I am a fitness enthusiast.  I like working out and examining what I am eating and learning how to do both better. I enjoy learning about how God made the body and exploring how it responds.  I am enthralled by the potential God built into the body and rejoice when I see people discover the gift that God has given us in the body.

But the truth is that I am enthralled by God more.

With anything we love and hold dearly, there is always the danger that our love for it will supersede our love for God.  It’s a tension we must learn to navigate throughout our lives and about many different things.  It’s not that God wants us to love only Him and nothing else.  God made us to love, and He holds love above all other characteristics (see e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:13).  He wants us to love; loving people and ideals and is part of our DNA.  But one thing should always remain — that we love God more.  Whether it’s our kids, our spouse, our jobs, our life-calling, or whatever, it’s good to love those things … even to love them deeply … but we must love God more.

So as I examine myself, my heart and my loves, I return to this truth:  I love God more.  And I pray and I ask that He helps me keep all things in service to my love for Him.  That love for God is what fuels me and drives me and beckons me to everything else I love.  That love for God is what all my other loves point to.  That love for God and His glory remains my ultimate objective.

Yes, I am a fitness enthusiast.  But my ultimate objective is not health and fitness.  My ultimate objective is Christ-likeness.  May I never forget.  And may the pursuit of health always be within the greater context of loving and honoring and bringing glory to the One who made me.

Temple Care

“I know, my God, that You examine our hearts and rejoice when You find integrity there.  You know I have done all of this with good motives, and I have watched their people offer their gifts willingly and joyously.”  1 Chronicles 29:17 (NLT)

This is part of David’s prayer after he gathered all the materials for building the temple, the place where God would dwell.  No expense was spared.  Everyone contributed generously.  Gold and silver beyond belief and precious stones and other riches.  The temple that Solomon ended up building with these materials was probably beyond most of our imaginations.  They wanted it to be as magnificent as it could be because it was where God would live.  And yet, David acknowledges that, even still, it is too insignificant: “who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to You?  Everything we have has come from you, and we give You only what You have given us” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  The most magnificent dwelling they could make for God paled in comparison to God’s own magnificence or to the things of God.

David wanted both God and the Israelites to know that his only rationale for building a magnificent temple was to bring glory to God.  It was not that he wanted to impress the neighboring nations or lord it over his people or be the king with the most opulent kingdom.  He hoped to build something that might be worthy to be God’s dwelling place on earth.  And He knew that God knew his heart and his intentions.  Yes, it wasn’t going to last forever … but it was to be God’s dwelling on earth.  It needed, as best as possible, to reflect God’s glory.

And so are you.  You are God’s temple — the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within all who call Christ “Lord.”  (See 1 Corinthians 6:19) What type of temple are you building for Him?  What type of care are you giving His temple?

Input

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”         Luke 6:45 (NIV)

I was meeting with a friend the other day and telling her more about ShemaFit.  As we discussed the goal of stewarding our bodies well, she exclaimed that many do not know how to care for this body God gave us.  As I thought about her comment, I knew she had spoken some truth.  So perhaps it might be helpful to break down the idea of stewarding the body into three general categories: Input, Output, & Restoration.  All three components are critical health and wellness.

Today, we start with Input.

What goes into our bodies has a huge impact on what we can expect out of our bodies.  It’s just like Jesus’ warning to guard what goes into our hearts and minds — for whatever we allow as Input will directly affect our Output.  If we want to care for this body and steward it well, we need to guard the Input.  Here are a few reminders:

  • Monitor your food groups every day.  At least half of what you eat every day should be fresh fruits and vegetables.  (The fresher the better — meaning not canned, jarred, frozen, dried, etc.  Second best would be fresh frozen.) Only one-fourth of your Input should be grains.  (This is a challenge for many people I know.). Whole grains are best.  That leaves one-fourth or more of your input from protein.  Aim for lean protein  like fish, chicken, and turkey.
  • Watch your sugar intake.  This can be challenging in modern society because so many things are processed and packaged, which often means hidden sugar.  So, here are three helpful hints — avoid obvious sugar intake, avoid processed foods, and (if you can’t avoid processed foods) learn to read labels intelligently.
  • Pay attention to yourself.  One of the amazing things our body can do is to tell us what bothers it.  Pay attention to signs of food allergies or sensitivities.  Become curious about what makes your body work well and what makes it perform poorly.  Pay attention to what it is telling you and respond in kindness.  If you are like me, my sinuses do not respond well when I eat dairy.  So I avoid dairy products.  I still love ice cream and cheese, but I generally don’t eat them because I’ve learned that it hurts my body.

Bottom line is that it’s about learning to love and be tender to this amazing gift God has given you.  Treat it well because, just like the heart, out of it flows the springs of life!  (See Proverbs 4:23.)

Hard Work

“So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you are really among those God has called and chosen. ” 2 Peter 1:10a (NLT)

When we consider the spiritual aspect of our lives, most Christians know that staying strong in their faith takes work, and growing in our faith takes hard work.  While we know that God is ultimately the One who causes the growth (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-9), we also know that there is some mysterious partnership between us and God — we know that we have to participate by working hard to maintain and strengthen our faith.

The same is true about the physical aspect of our lives.  While God created it as an amazing organism that grows and heals itself … in order for it to obtain its higher and God-given potential, hard work is required.  We have to be thoughtful about what we eat, how much exercise we get, how must rest we give our bodies, etc.

The Greek word used in 2 Peter for “work hard” also can be translated as “be more diligent” or “give diligence.”  Many of us fall into one of two categories:  either we are diligent about the spiritual aspect of our lives or we are diligent about the physical aspect.  Given time restraints and responsibilities, many of us can only find time to give diligence to one.  What I wish to propose is that we not consider it and either-or choice, but that we could see there is a both-and option.

Caring for my body is an act of worship.  God created my body and gave it to me to steward during my life on earth.  Practically speaking, my exercise room has become my sanctuary.  My time on the treadmill has become my best prayer time.  It’s a time I am open and listening and laying things before God and have the space to hear Him respond.  Eating well has strengthened my discipline and self-control (not to mention I feel better too!).  Getting enough rest not only reminds me to let go of things and trust God but also to value and respect my personal limits.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

So, dear brothers and sisters, I trust that you are working hard, but I ask you to consider your hard work not to be an either-or choice, but a both-and.  (For more, see April 7, 2014 entry).

The Body

“For we know that … when we die and leave this earthly body, we will have … an eternal body made for us by God Himself …. [W]e will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered if the body is important to God? Have you ever searched the Bible to see if the body mattered to God?

While I haven’t yet made an exhaustive search of the Scriptures on this matter, here are a few clues I have found along the way:

– God “formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), and God made woman out of Adam’s own body (Genesis 2:22). God Himself fashioned the human body.  He made it in His own image (Genesis 1:27) and breathed His own breath into it. He also made male and female interconnected in numerous ways.  Both God’s attention to detail and His desire to fashion us in His own image would indicate great passion and care.

– When we die, we are given a new body; we are not simply spirit form in the afterlife, but with a new body.  (See also 1 Corinthians 15:40, 54; Romans 8:23.)  To me, this indicates the importance of a body from God’s perspective. I cannot fully grasp His rationale, but the body must be important. If our spirit/soul was all that mattered to God, why wouldn’t we be purely spirit/soul in the afterlife? Instead, God grants us a new body.

– Followers of Jesus are called the “body of Christ” (see e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 2:16, etc.). While most consider this to be a metaphor, why would God choose this particular metaphor? God surely wouldn’t have picked this metaphor if the body was insignificant and didn’t matter to Him!

– Scripture says that a believer’s body is “actually part of Christ” and “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19). Scripture tells us to honor God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:20). Enough said?

Each of these clues, to me, reveal that the body God made for us is important.  It matters to God. Yes, they body is passing away, but for whatever reasons, it remains important to Him.

Is it important to you?

Death

“Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (NET)

January has brought much death to our family circle.  Thus far, we have lost two people close to us and have two more in the hospital. January has highlighted the frailty and fragility of the human body and the truth that it will, one day, give out on us. In fact, each of the illnesses and deaths we have encountered have been, ultimately, the result of the body ceasing to function properly and giving out.

Which leaves me again to wonder why, as Christians, we don’t hear more about taking care of this amazing body God has gifted to us!? We hear a lot about stewarding our money and our time and our talents … but what about stewarding this gift of the body? If the impact we can have for our Lord in this dark world is limited by how long our bodies hold up, then why don’t we cherish it and care for it and treat it with love and respect?

In Hebrews (above), the writer was speaking in metaphorical terms.  He was encouraging us to keep moving, accepting the Lord’s discipline of us, and using it to make us better and stronger for Him.  But I believe that taking care of our physical bodies and strengthening our them can have both short- and long-term value for the kingdom. How?  In the short-term, it is an act of worship. It is stewarding and caring for one of the most amazing things He has entrusted to us.  In the long-term, it can improve and lengthen the time we have in this world to shine for Jesus.

Yes, our bodies are temporal. But goodness, so is our money, our time and our talents … & we steward those, don’t we? Your body is here for your entire journey, so strengthen the things that remain so that it may not be put out of joint, but rather healed and used by our Lord.

Honoring God

“Don’t you 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, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

This coming Sunday at brunch, I am excited to ask my kids how they think we honor God as a family. I anticipate hearing responses like: we go to church, we pray, we love God, etc. Then I intend to ask them how we could honor God more as a family. I hope to get answers like: argue less, love each other more, be more generous, etc. We will see!

In this passage of scripture, God is asking us to honor Him with our bodies. Yes, the specific context of the passage is in regard to sexual immorality. And you might say, “hey … I’m good there, so that box is checked!  Move on.” But I don’t think that’s all there is to it. I don’t think honoring God with our bodies stops at sexual morality. Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth — a city where sexual immorality was rampant. In other words, Paul wrote about sexual immorality because  that was the most prevalent sin against the body in the city to which Paul wrote the letter.

What might Paul see as the most prevalent sin against the body in our era? What might Paul see as the most prevalent sin against the temple of the Holy Spirit in America? In your town?  In your home?  In our overindulgent society, I think there might be several ….

So let me ask you — how could you honor God with your body?  You are not your own.  You were bought with a high price.  How could you honor Him more?

You

“So our aim is to please Him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body.” 2 Corinthians 5:9 (NLT)

Who are you? If I were to ask you that, you would probably start offering a list of adjectives describing yourself. Some of those adjectives would describe your personality, like and dislikes, etc.  Others would, most likely, include physical descriptors such as tall, brunette, pretty, whatever. It’s only natural, right? It’s part of who were are.

Or is it?

Part of what Paul is talking about here in his second letter to the church of Corinth is that God has prepared a new body for us in heaven — an eternal body. We will leave these “earthly tents” (v. 1) when we die, & we will put on a new heavenly body. Anyone who has stood at the bedside of someone who was dying has seen this reality in living color.

It stands to reason, then, that if you leave your body, your body is not you. You are something much more profound. You are you, something inside your body. And Your body is, instead, a vessel … a container of you.  Said differently, it is the container in which you live and move and have your being. As such, I would argue that your body is  a gift — an amazing, beautiful, complex gift that God has given you to steward during your lifetime. Yes, it will pass away (as will money, time, resources, talents, etc.) … but unlike all those other gifts you steward, your body is with you your entire journey.

God has given you a beautiful gift.  It is your body to use throughout your entire earthly journey.  It is the vessel in which you live and move and have your being.  It is, arguably, your most precious gift.  Every ministry act you ever make is made through it.  Every act of kindness, charity, love or generosity is made through it.  And only you can care for it and steward it well.