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?

 

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.

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).

The Process of Purity

… Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit.  And let us work toward complete purity because we fear God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT)

If you ever wondered if God cared about the body, read Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth.  Paul’s message is clear : It matters to God what we do with our bodies!

First of all, God created our bodies, breathed life into them, and called His creation very good.  (Genesis 1:26-2:7)

In doing so, He has given each of us a unique and individual gift (our own body) to grow and steward and care for every day of our lives.

And He made it clear that it matters to Him how we care for it.  For the nation of Israel, God gave many laws about what to eat, what not to eat; what to touch, what not to touch; when to work and when to rest.  And for the church, Paul echoes the principle of devoting all of who we are to the Lord — that the body also matters in our devotion to God.

So as I aim to raise the value of returning health and fitness to the realm of the sacred, I constantly have to evaluate my own progress in that journey.  And, as it is with the other aspects of ourselves that we devote to God (e.g., mind and soul), the process of devoting my body to God IS a journey.  And real journeys generally do not go up and to the right all the time.  Some seasons are better than others; some harder.  Sometimes it’s two steps forwards and one step back.  Sometimes it’s victory in one aspect with defeat in another.  And my journey is the same.  I just pray that it’s always moving forward….

So as you examine your life and your whole-life devotion, remember that God wants all of you. Don’t stop at considering just what might defile your soul, but also … as Paul reminds us … what might defile the body as well.  And when things go wrong (because they do), don’t let the evil one use it to beat you down.  Remember that God is the author of process … that Jesus understands our weakness … and victory has already been won for us (although we have yet to lay hold of it).  Just get back up.  Seek to learn what it is you need to learn, and never give up.  In our weakness is His strength.  We just need to find it.

If you are like me, you want to devote everything to Him.  I like to say, “All of me, all for you.”  That’s the goal, but I fall down.  And God in His love and mercy responds to my cries for forgiveness and lovingly picks me up.

Someday I’ll get all the way there, but He will have brought me home by then.  So until then, I’m in the process ….

Grieving 

(Dedicated to Jonah)

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  Number 21:8 (NIV)

It feels like I haven’t written in ages.  It feels that way because, frankly, my life has been torn apart by confusion, pain and grief.  The past week has felt like an eternity … in part, because the pain is sometimes such that it literally takes my breath away.  And even when I can breathe, I haven’t much to say.

Pain can be like that.  Whether it’s pain brought on by unfortunate circumstances, by your own bad choices, or by someone else’s wrong-doing, pain can be like that.  Almost overwhelming.  Grieving the loss of what you had or wanted or wished for … wanting to cling onto what isn’t really there, giving you no choice but to let go … wishing you could turn back time and change this course in your history.  Trying not to drown.

But as I sit and wallow in all of this, God speaks.  God, in His goodness and mercy, continues to love and to speak in His still small voice … and He says to me simply “look up.”

Look up, like the Israelites did to the snake on the pole that Moses held as they wandered in the desert.  Look up, like Jesus tells Peter as Peter begins to sink because he’s looking too much at the wind and the waves instead of looking at Jesus.  (See Matthew 14:29-30). Look up, as we all must, to the cross of Calvary and bow and wonder at what the God of heaven has done for us.  Look up.

What does all this have to do with health and fitness?  At first, I wasn’t sure.  But I guess it’s because I must officially acknowledge that our lives and bodies will pass away.  Try as we may (and we should, by the way, try hard to steward our bodies well, just as we steward so many of God’s gifts) … but try as we may, these bodies will suffer and pass away.  We will hurt and experience great pain and much grief.  There will be wind and waves — many scary and seemingly overwhelming waves.  There will be sorrows that “like sea billows roll.”  (It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio Spafford, 1873.)  But even then … especially then … God says, “look up.”

I don’t know what you are going through or where it hurts, but I do know this: God’s loving voice says to you and to me “look up.”  “Look up at Me, and you will live.”

With Hands Lifted High

“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”  Lamentations 3:41 (KJV)

This verse comes in the context of repentance.  The nation of Israel was in exile, being disciplined by God.  Jeremiah (the author of Lamentations) was pleading for God’s people to “turn again in repentance to the Lord” (v. 40) … & to lift up their hearts with their hands unto God.

Among other things, what strikes me in this passage is the plea to lift their hearts and hands to the Lord.  To return not just their devotion and affection, but to turn their physical selves back to the Lord.  It echoes what I believe God wants — all of us.  Yes, God wants our hearts.  But He also wants our physical selves.  He wants all of us.

For decades, the church has (at best) forgotten about including our bodies in our devotion to God.  (At worst, it has vilified the body as pure “flesh” and intentionally excluded it.). But I believe God wants more.  I believe God wants all of us … and I believe Scripture as well as the history of God’s people reveals that.

When God first set the nation of Israel apart as His people, He gave them laws that covered all aspects of their lives.  As it pertains to their bodies, the Torah included detailed descriptions of what foods to eat and not to eat, what to touch and what not to touch, where to go and where not to go, when to rest and when not to rest, etc.  God included the body — our physical selves — in His description of how His people should live.

The early church carried forward this belief that God wanted all of us.  Although the coming of Christ set us free from the food laws and other aspects of the Torah, we were not set free from loving God holistically.  The early church promoted this idea by making Gluttony and Sloth two of the seven deadly sins.  (Catch that?  Two of seven.  Almost 30% of the deadly sins pertained to food-intake and exercise.  Hmmmmm.). (See also posts dated 5/7/14 and 5/9/14, Nourishment as Worship 2 and Exercise as Worship 2, respectively.)

So, with this in mind, I plea for every Christ-follower to join me in lifting our hearts and our hands up to God in heaven.  Together, let’s return health and fitness to the realm of the sacred … because God made it sacred and declared it good.  And He is worthy of all of us!

Pain

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

For the past several months, I’ve been negotiating some pain.  Every time I go for a run, I am left with aching pain in my right hip socket.  Come to find out that my pelvic girdle has somehow shifted and my right hip is slightly out-of-place.  So now I have to work in getting my pelvic girdle and that right hip back in alignment.

And so it is with our souls.  God often uses pain to show us that something is out-of-place.  Maybe it’s a long-standing issue that still needs work.  Maybe it’s something that has recently gotten out of alignment in our perspective or internal world.  Maybe it’s just good old-fashioned growing pain.  But God uses pain.

Truth is, I hate pain.  Internal or external, I hate pain.  It messes everything up. It’s uncomfortable and debilitating, and it hurts!

But, as I work on my hip and sit though my pain, I am reminded that maybe it’s time to consider pain from a different vantage point.  Maybe it’s time to consider pain as the beacon pointing to where I need to focus my efforts right now.  Maybe it’s time to see pain as an ally to getting me to where I truly want to go.

Maybe it’s time to remember that God uses pain … because He loves us and doesn’t want us running our race with a limp.

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!

Renewal

“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.”  Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

I was in yoga the other day, and I noticed how much my self-talk has shifted since I first started doing yoga.  How much kinder and encouraging and understanding I was … instead of criticizing and judging myself so much.  The owner of the studio tells me she sees that all the time.  She says when people start yoga, they often can’t use the mirror to look themselves in the eye, but after a time they begin to reflect their own gaze.

There is a power to our thoughts and inner mental talk.

ABC News published an article earlier this month entitled 10 Rules Fit People Live By.  The essence of the article was that fit people focus on positive thinking — they have trained their minds and attitudes toward the positive — they have learned to control their thinking instead of letting their thinking control them.  (See http://abcnews.go.com/Health/10-rules-fit-people-live/story?id=31053726).  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s interesting how the wisdom of the world sometimes echoes the wisdom of God, isn’t it?

God has told us all along that there is great power in our minds.  He tells us that in Ephesians, in Romans, and elsewhere.  He tells us that our minds and thoughts and attitudes need to be renewed … but instead of using worldly wisdom, God teaches that it’s His Spirit and Scripture that needs to renew us.  God’s Spirit and the “cleaning of God’s Word” are the optimal tools to renew our thoughts and attitudes.  (See Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 5:25-26).

So the next time you are working out, check your self-talk.  Arm yourself with a verse or two to allow God’s Spirit and Word to renew and refocus your mind. Consider praising Him because you ARE fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), or remember that you CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13), or claim the truth that you too are being made new (Revelation 21:5) and want to join in to the process.

And may God renew your mind … and your body and soul for His glory!

An Incomplete Theology

“May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God ….”  2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

What concerns me about our view of God’s love is that it’s inconsistent.  We say one thing and yet often live contradictorally.  What I’ve learned at church is that God cares a lot about my soul, and that He even cares about my mind (what I allow to enter into my mind, what my thoughts dwell upon, etc.).  But what about my body?  I’ve heard next-to-nothing about how God views my body.  So what should I do with that?  Since I am a creature who is unquestionably part body (and mind and soul) … but I don’t know hear much about God caring about my body … then can I be certain that God cares about all of me?  On some very deep level, I fear that it leaves us wondering about the magnitude of God’s love. Is God fickle?  Does He love just certain parts of us?  Is His love conditional or partial?  Of course, our minds know that the Bible teaches differently.  Our minds know that the Bible teaches of God’s overwhelming, unconditional, engulfing and endless love for us; yet our practical theology, for the most part, is as if God is completely unconcerned with our bodies and how we interact with them.

I don’t believe that’s true.  I believe our theology is incomplete in that respect.  I believe the Bible teaches that God loves every one of us and every aspect of every one of us.  He is working to make all things new.  I believe God’s love engulfs every part of us (body, mind and soul) — that He is the Love that sees and embraces every aspect of ourselves.

He calls us to be better, yes … because He loves us.  He calls for our hearts and souls to be purer and more devoted to Him, for our minds to be more disciplined and focused on His purposes, and for our body to be more dedicated to Him as His temple.  Yes, the soul is of God’s highest concern because our souls are the part of us that lives forever.  But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care about our minds or bodies.  He gave them both to us, and He wants us to cherish and nourish and grow and strengthen and use all of us for His glory.

So let’s give all of us … all to Him.

Rest-oration

“For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them; then He rested in the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” Exodus 20:11 (NLT)

Do you consider rest to be holy?  Most of us don’t. Our lives are crazy busy and overfilled. Silence is a rarity and rest? Well, rest is hard to come by.

So, then again, maybe rest is holy. Maybe rest denotes honor and respect. Think about it: when someone has been “worked to death,” it reveals a lack of respect for that person. Their personal value has been disregarded and minimized.  To allow rest would be giving a level of honor.

Perhaps to rest means to quit working and chasing our tails and trust that God is in charge and will take care of us, because … well … He promises to.  And we trust Him, right?

This is the last of a 3-part series with practical tips for stewarding our bodies.  We looked at monitoring our Input (March 20 entry), increasing our Output (March 27 entry), and now we’ll look at Restoration.  And rest is key to restoration.  Let’s learn to better rest our bodies because we trust in God and we value the bodies He has given us. So here are a few thoughts:

  • Do you get enough sleep?  Most adults do not.  God gave us sleep and, on average, our bodies need at least 8 hours a night.
  • Are you overtraining?  While exercise is essential to overall well-being, many exercise enthusiasts and new recruits are at risk of overtraining.  One or two days off of exercise is recommended for your body to rest and recover.
  • Are you constantly on the go, running from one thing to another?  If so, then your body, mind and soul are probably tired.  I am a firm believer in keeping the Sabbath and in periodic solitude retreats.  Honor your body, mind and soul by resting from all of life’s craziness and reconnecting with yourself and with God.

God created a rhythm of life for us, and that rhythm includes rest.  Maybe we too can rediscover the holiness of rest.

The Main Thing

“[P]hysical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way.”  1 Timothy 4:8a (NET)

I’ve hardly been able to work out for over a week now.  My system has been fighting this awful cold virus, and working out too much would only exacerbate the problem.  Not only do I miss the physical routine of exercise, but I miss my worship time with God — worshipping Him with all of me — spirit, mind and body.  But this week, caring for and stewarding this body God gave me means letting it rest and heal.

For some of us exercise enthusiasts, it can be hard to stop the routine when necessary and rest.  For others, it might be hard to keep the focus on God and His glory, as focus can be diverted to external outcomes and vanity.  And all of us need reminders to keep the main thing, the main thing.  And the main thing, for all of us, is the “pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately” (2 Peter 1:8 (NET)).  

That’s what it’s all about — knowing our Lord Jesus more intimately and becoming increasingly more like Him so that we can reflect more of His glory in this world.  Of course, there are many ways in which we can and should pursue godliness (or God-likeness).  And while I firmly believe that God wants us to reflect His glory with all that we are (body, mind and spirit — see All of Me, June 3, 2014 entry), Scripture is clear that we must keep the goal of pursuing His likeness first and foremost in our pursuit.

So this week, as I struggle to care for and steward my body in a different way, I am reminded once again to keep the main thing the main thing.  And when I am able again to worship God and commune with Him in one of my preferred ways, perhaps I will be able to reflect a little more of His glory.

Flushing

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do ….”  Hebrews 10:35a (NLT)

Once a week, I attend a Bikram yoga class — you know, the hot one where you sweat a lot.  A LOT.  Other good things happen there too, like stretching and balance work, lots of focus and concentration.  It’s been a really good practice for me, and once a week has been a good rhythm for me.  Each time I go, I focus on God (the place where I attend seems to have divorced the practice from its eastern spiritual roots), I work hard, and I sweat a lot.  And when I leave (after a shower, of course), I feel renewed — purged of toxins and old junk and refilled and with fresh cleanness.  It’s like my system has been flushed, and I’m ready for a restart.

It’s just like what the writer of Hebrews meant in his encouragement not to “neglect our meeting together.”  Something powerful happens when the church gathers, and it’s something we need to do an a regular basis.  I believe the gathering of God’s people is like a flushing.  It helps us get rid of our toxins and fills us with the power and encouragement to live renewed lives.  Acts 2:42 states that when the early church gathered, they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and prayer.”  They confessed their sins to one another and partook of the communion elements.  They got out of their daily life routines, and met to encourage each other with Scripture and prayer.  Out with the things of the world; in with the things of God.  In a word, they flushed. They flushed regularly.

So let us not neglect our meeting together.  Whether it’s a big church, small church or house gathering of faithful followers of Christ, let’s not neglect the meeting together.  We need each other, and we all need a regular flushing!

Attending 

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  Genesis 3:8-9 (NIV)

God’s first plan was to have fellowship with those He created.  From the start, God has desired to do life with those He created in His own image.

But sin interrupted that intimacy.  And many things continue to interrupt our intimacy with God.  At times, we often find ourselves hiding from God, ashamed or afraid, like Adam and Eve.  Other times, we find ourselves too busy to stay connected to God, as there are so many other things pressing for our attention.  And sometimes, we simply have to admit that we haven’t really learned how to stay connected to God in the midst of everyday life activities.  We haven’t disciplined ourselves well enough to be present with God while we do other things.

There’s an old book called Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  It’s a short little book that beautifully describes the need to practice God’s presence as we go about our day.  (I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t already read it.  It’s powerful … & short!).  Just like we need to practice different skills and exercises and moves, we also need to practice living amongst the presence of God.  We need to practice being constantly aware of and in tune with His presence.

Working out has become  one of those times for me.  It is a time when I practice staying my inner mind on Him while my body and superficial thoughts are focused on my work out.  It’s a time when I practice attending to God while I am also attending to other things.  When I work with clients, my intent is for them to attend and for me to help them attend — both to God and to their workout.

It takes practice to get good at anything.  It takes practice to attend to God.  It takes practice to attend to God while also attending to other things.  Seize the opportunities presented in working out to practice attending to God and your workout.  May it strengthen both your body and your soul.