Deepening Dependence

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7 (NASB)

This age is one filled with busyness — seeking, striving, working, overworking, constant, non-stop pursuit.  And with it comes so much stress and pressure that never let up.

Because if we do, then everything will fall apart.  Right?

At least that’s what we tell ourselves.  At least that is what the evil one wants us to believe.

But the truth is that we need to stop.  The truth is that we need to rest.

The truth is that our bodies need rest — that our bodies crave rest — in order to be at their best.   And our souls need to rest in order thrive … perhaps in order to survive.

Why?

I cannot say for sure.  But it is incontrovertible that God built into our very being a need for rest — on all levels.  When we are awake for extended periods of time, our body begins to shut down for sleep.  When we exercise a particular muscle group, we then need to rest it in order for it to heal, grow and strengthen.  When we study intensely for a period of time, our minds then need a break in order to assimilate the information absorbed.

And our souls need rest from the constant striving in order to deepen our dependence on God.

When we rest in the Lord, we acknowledge that we are not in control … that the outcome (of whatever it is we are striving to accomplish) is not dependent on us alone.  We acknowledge that all things are actually in the hands of the Lord.  We admit to our frailty and limitations and surrender to His strength and all-sufficiency.

God says: “wait on Me.  Depend on Me.  Trust in Me alone.”

When we rest, not only are we taking care of the bodies and souls that God gave us, but more importantly, we are depending on God and honoring Him in the process.

For me, I learning this to be true:  deepening my dependence on myself isn’t get me very far … but deepening my dependence on God will take me everywhere I truly want to be.

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Flesh

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ….”  John 1:14a (KJV)

In Christian parlance, the word “flesh” has gotten a bad rap.  Most Christians associate “the flesh” with things sinful or evil or tempting.  But the word used for “flesh” in the Bible actually carries no such connotation.

The Greek word “sarx” simply means “flesh” — skin, meat, bones — whether of men, beasts, fish or birds.  It has neither a good or a bad association with it.  The New Living Translation of the Bible does a better job of keeping the word neutral, in its original sense.

So why & how did “flesh” get such a bad rap?  That’s a long and complicated story, but for now, may God encourage you & renew your mind about how you think about your flesh.

Your flesh was created by God and given to you.  It is a gift.  It has amazing potential for good and for beauty and for reflecting God’s glory.  Your flesh is an integral  part of how God made you.  And He does not ask you to divide yourself against yourself.  In God’s kingdom, there is no separation between the sacred and the secular.  God wants all of you.

Can the flesh do bad things?  Yes.  And so can the mind.  And so can the spirit.  It’s what we do or don’t do with our flesh that constitutes something good or something evil.  The flesh itself is not evil.

After all, the Word became flesh.  God Himself incarnate in the flesh …

… and He did something wonderful with His.  Will you?

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.

Abundance

I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b (NET)

(Dedicated to Kim)

I spent the first part of the Christmas holiday sick. Just a winter cold, but still sick. And I struggled to get past the sickness of my body to let my mind and spirit relish in the joy of Christmas, As I struggled, I was reminded of what another Christian theologian once wrote: “Sickness makes it impossible to avoid the reality of our bodies. When I am sick, I am not a mind (or soul) with a suffering body; I am the suffering body.”

And then I learned that my dear friend Kim is battling breast cancer. As I listened to Kim and her process, I was again clearly reminded that God made us as integrated wholes. Kim’s battle is much more than a physical battle in her body; it is a battle in her body, mind and spirit. It is a battle that involves all of her.

God Himself is triune — three parts in one indivisible whole. And He made us in His image. Yet many Christians have come to believe that we have bodies … not that we are, at least in part, bodies. But there are times, like when we are sick, when we are reminded that we are integrated bodies. God made us that way. The health of one aspect of myself affects the other aspects of myself. The health of my body affects my mind and spirit. The health of my mind affects my body and spirit (as seen, for example, in people with brain damage.). And the health of my spirit affects my mind and body. An integrated whole.

In the miracle of Christmas, Jesus came to give us life in all of its abundance. And, given the way God made us, I firmly believe that abundant life has to include all aspects of how God made us. Abundant mind, body and spirit.

So as I prepare to have my friend Kim over for dinner tonight, I am hoping to encourage and lift her up in mind and spirit … knowing and trusting that the health of her mind and spirit will help to foster abundance in her body.

And as I prepare for a new year, I ponder anew where God wants to see greater abundance in me.

Purpose in Every Step

So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”  1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NLT)

A few months ago, I started teaching kickboxing again.  I taught it years ago and started missing it, so we brought it back.  Much of a cardio kickboxing class is punching and kicking into the air.  Within each class, though, I bring out the mitts and paddles.  I bring them out so that the participants can feel and experience an actual punch — actual contact — and therefore experience the need for purpose and power in each punch and kick.  Experiencing the actual purpose of each movement allows for greater purpose to be given in each practice punch and kick.  The goal is not to aimlessly fling arms and legs around, but to have an intended target, a strike-zone … focused effort and power and purpose in each movement.

And so our lives should be.  Focused.  Intentional.  Filled not with flinging arms and aimless energy, but with purpose and power in each step.  This is what God, through the words of Paul, is suggesting.  To live aware and alive and intentionally, with purpose in every step.

Sometimes it is hard to live that intentionally.  We get tired.  We get hurt.  We lose focus or get discouraged.  We are, after all, still human and in a fallen condition.  But if we know Jesus, we get up.  Because with Jesus, we have Hope and we have Life in us.  We get up, and we continue pursuing purpose in every step.

Being disqualified is not an option.

And so we continue on, training our bodies, our minds and our souls.  Regaining our Focus.  Remembering our Purpose.  Submitting all of who we are to the only One who can truly transform us.  Offering ourselves as living sacrifices … and trying not to crawl off the altar.

Purpose.  In each step.

Oppositional Training

“[T]he land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys ….” Deuteronomy 11:11 (NIV)

If you’ve done any strength training, you’ve learned the principle of oppositional training. To really strengthen any muscle group, you have to strengthen the opposing muscle group. If you want to strengthen your biceps, for example, you need to also strengthen your triceps. If you want to grow your quadriceps, you also need to grow your hamstrings. To train effectively, you have to train in opposition.

Interestingly, the rest of life is like that too.  We cannot have pleasure, for example, without pain (otherwise it would all seem the same and all feel neutral). We cannot have highs without lows, or as the writer of Ecclesiastes so adeptly put it, we cannot have laughter without tears or dancing without mourning (see Ecc. 3:4).  It is the order that God created.  We cannot achieve great heights without going through great valleys.

Problems arise, of course, when we ignore the principles of oppositional training. When we want large biceps, for example, but don’t like the triceps exercises … so we don’t do them much. Not only do we become out of balance, but we can’t achieve the results we really desire when we deny the way in which God made things.

Of course, I see myself in this paradox frequently. I would much prefer to avoid great pain, sadness, loss or mourning.  I’d much prefer avoid, deny, repress or run away from that side of life.  But I am learning that even God’s Promised Land had mountains and valleys … and that in His economy, I cannot avoid one without losing the other.

So I am learning afresh the principle of oppositional training.  And it’s hard.  It’s hard to sit in the hard places and remain present and not to rush through or ignore it.  It’s hard.  Really hard sometimes.  But I want the other side.  I endure the valley because I want the mountain-top.  And I strive to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, my example … who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.  (Hebrews 12:2b).