Faith Exercise

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)

When we take care of our bodies, we are living by this principle presented in Hebrews 11. How? Because when we exercise, we do not immediately see the results. We trust that the exercise we are doing today will have beneficial results in the future. When we eat a well-balanced diet, we do not immediately see the good it does to our bodies. Instead, we trust that the food is doing good things inside of us, and perhaps we will eventually see the benefits on the outside. When we honor the bodies God has given us and care for them appropriately, we do so in faith that the efforts will be well worth it.

The same is true with our spiritual disciplines, isn’t it? When we read our Bibles each morning, we do so as a faith exercise and a discipline. Yes, we might “feel” a little better after doing so (just as we might feel a little better after a workout), but the hope is that the real benefit is much more far-reaching.  When we build prayer and solitude and charity into our lifestyle, we do so with the hope that through it God will develop a more Christ-like person in us.  And God promises that He will. The spiritual disciplines we incorporate into our lives might have momentary and immediate impact, but the real benefit is much more cumulative and long-term.

So press on.  Exercise the faith that is given to you.  The faith we use in the physical realm is the same faith we use in the spiritual realm … for God created us as one integrated being. (See SHEMA post on April 3, 2014).    And the One we serve is faithful to complete what He has begun.

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Choosing Wisely

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” 1 Corinthians 10:23a (NASB)

We all gravitate towards the things we like … the things that are easy for us … the things we prefer. And we all tend to avoid the things we don’t like … the things that are hard for us … the things take more work. It’s part of human nature. That’s why Paul reminds us to choose wisely.

The same is true in regard to caring for our bodies. Maybe you are into eating well, but not into exercising … or vice-versa.  Perhaps you love cardio-training but not resistance training. Perhaps you are great at working your body but not at giving it the proper rest it needs. God gives us the freedom to choose — to decide how we spend our time & energy in stewarding what He has given us. Yes, it is lawful for you to do your sixth cardio workout of the week … but perhaps it would be more profitable to do some resistance training … or even to rest your body. Yes, you can work out like a fiend and then go”reward” yourself with a burger & fries. But perhaps it would be more profitable to reward your body with what it really needs (like proteins, fruits & vegetables).

For me, I need reminders to choose wisely about as many things as I can. So, here’s your reminder:

All things are lawful. But not all things are profitable. Choose wisely.

Counter-Cultural

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2014 states (in reference to women’s clothing): “The measurements for a size 0 today were the measurements assigned to a size 8 in 1978.”

Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2014 states: “2.1 billion people, or about 29% of the world’s population, were either overweight or obese in 2013.”

And the May 30th article continued: “The increases in overweight and obese people ‘have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time,’ said the study.” The USA, of course, tops the list with 86.9 million people categorized as obese in 2013.

It’s a sad statistic.  And it’s had a toll on people’s health, longevity, lifestyle and pocketbook.  Health care costs have risen substantially.  But the truth is that our culture has endorsed it, if not encouraged it.

The link between the above two articles is obvious, isn’t it? Our culture has given everyone permission to gain weight, by calling what was a size 8 now a size 0.  Heck, you can gain weight and wear the same size!  Such “reframing” of sizes only furthers the epidemic.  What are those of us who, under the old system, were a 4 or a 6 supposed to do?  Ask the salesperson for sub-zero sizes? I can just imagine the evil glares!

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be skinny.  God made people in all shapes and sizes.  What I am saying is that we need to take care of the bodies God has given us.  But our culture has given us permission not to.  God loves everyone and wants us to be all that He created us to be … in this life and the next.  He gave us beautiful, capable, strong, complex, intricate bodies (see June 3, 2014 post). He gave them to us to steward. Let’s not let the world dictate our behavior, let’s let God renew our minds. Let’s steward everything that He has given us well.  Let’s reclaim these bodies to glorify the One who gave them to us!

All of Me

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

Hanging in my exercise room, I have a poster of the human body and all its various muscle groups. Each muscle group has a different color, and as you look at it, you cannot help but be awed by how intricate and complex it all is … how all the various muscle groups are interrelated and interdependent.  I find it amazingly beautiful! And on this poster, I have placed a translation of Psalm 139:14 to constantly remind me of the amazing God who fashioned us with such care.

Sometimes when I look at it, I am reminded that this poster only represents the muscular system. There are other systems too, like our skeletal system, our neurological system, our system of veins and arteries, etc, etc. Layers upon layers of care and complexity! We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So, with fear and wonder, I want to honor what God has so carefully fashioned. With fear and wonder, I want to care for this intricate mechanism He has fashioned for me. With fear and wonder, I want to thank God not just with my mouth, but with my whole being.

With fear and wonder, I am reminded that my physicality is intertwined with my spirituality. And I want to love God with all of me.

Nourishment as Worship 2

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

Don’t you find it interesting that at least two of the Seven Deadly Sins are against the body? Personally, I am not Catholic or of Catholic decent … but I still find it very interesting that since early Christian times, these seven “sins” were emphasized … and two of them are sins against the body. I consider this to be further evidence of how God honors the body. And, even more interesting, are the two sins themselves: gluttony and sloth. In other words, they are input & output. Nourishment & exercise.

So let’s talk about gluttony.  Too much intake.  In American culture, where food is bountiful and indulgent, we have to be more mindful to view our intake in light of God’s glory. We need to prayerfully change our attitude and language.

1) Delete the word “full” from your vocabulary and mindset. Our culture talks all the time about being full, about eating until we are full, etc. The truth is that eating until you are full is eating too much. Consider this: when you are thirsty, do you drink until you are full and bloated? No. You drink simply until you are no longer thirsty. And so it should be with food. Don’t eat until you are full. Eat only until you are no longer hungry. Try it for a week, and I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

2) At mealtime, start with the food category that’s been lacking in your day’s input thus far. For most of us, that probably means starting our meals by eating with vegetables first.  Put into your stomach what your body needs first, then move onto other categories in the order of your needed daily requirements. (Consider the “plate” or “food pyramid” or something else as a daily guide). If you are no longer hungry by the time you get to the potato, for example, then you are no longer hungry … so stop. Save the potato for another day or another person, so that whether you eat or drink, you are doing it for the glory of God.

Nourishment as Worship I

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)

Exercise has been a form of worshipping God for me as long as I can remember. Seeing nourishment as a related way to worship God is a more recent development for me — a way God has been growing me over the past several years. But every bit as equally, how we nourish our bodies is part of how we steward this amazing creation God has given us. Here are a few things God has shown me:

1) As 1 Corinthians 6 discusses, God has released us from His dietary laws. Some of us, however, may function better with certain dietary restrictions (e.g., I function better off dairy and gluten). Regardless, we have choices to make when we eat. And out of all of our options, some choices are more profitable than others, and God encourages us to make the more profitable choices. For many of us, one of the more profitable choices we can make would be to eat more fruits and vegetables (at least 50% of what we consume per day!)

2) God encourages us not to be mastered by anything. Whether it is potato chips, bread, chocolate, Coca-cola, or alcohol, God wants us to be free from slavery to anything. He wants us to be free to follow & adore Him. So the work begins to discern what has the potential to control and master us … & to instead make more profitable choices.

3) Food is made to fuel the body. Not the other way around. Food is meant to fuel the body. And while our societies have found ways to make food quite enjoyable, food’s main objective is to fuel the body. In our home, we often tell our young children that many of the things we eat are for our bodies, not for our mouths. So consider consuming more fuel for your body than you do pleasure for your mouth.

Acts of Worship

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — that is your true and proper worship.”   Romans 12:1  (NIV)

In view of the mercy that the Father has extended to us through Christ — in light of all we have received in Christ — Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, as an act of worship. Is it odd to you that the body can be offered as an act of worship?

So often, the messages I have received from the Christian community is that the body is “flesh,” evil … or at the very least, insignificant. But I don’t believe that is Biblical. The body is a beautiful and incredible instrument that God has given and entrusted to us. It is in and through this amazing body that anything and everything we do flows. And I believe the way we care for our bodies can truly be an act of worship.

How? As with most things, it starts with a perspective shift.  A renewing of your mind.  As Paul continues in Romans 12, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Then we begin the work of integrating our renewed perspective into the daily way we do things.  As with any new spiritual practice, it takes intentionality, focus and repetition at first, but it soon becomes second nature.

So the first step is to ask God to help you renew your mind about the way you interact with and treat your body.  God is able to renew and restore damage done by others or by our own hands!  Then, take a step of faith consistent with your renewed perspective.  In the coming days I will begin posting some helpful ideas and practices in two key areas:  how we nourish and how we strengthen our bodies as spiritual acts of worship.  Use this poll to let me know which you want to hear about first.