Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

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Shining

Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8b (NIV)

One of my favorite things to do when working with clients, is to help them remember why we do the things that we do.  It’s so rewarding to bring people back to the fount of their motivation & their heart’s desire.  It’s also such an honor to be able to help people shape their motivating force.  To point them to Jesus, and encourage them to seek His face.

Because in the exercise and fitness world, God’s face isn’t always so obvious. People exercise and work out for many reasons, some of which revolve around vanity and other worldly pursuits.

But we exercise to honor God.  We exercise to thank God for the bodies He has given us and to steward them well. And while we work out, we seek His face.

Seeking God’s face is wholly different than seeking God’s hand.  Seeking God’s hand is easy. We do it all the time. We ask for His helping hand, His wisdom, His strength — we ask for His intercession on our behalf. But when we seek His face, we seek simply to be in His presence. We seek to see Him more clearly as He is, and to absorb more of Him.  That’s all.

When I go to the gym, I am submitting my body to the work it needs.  But when I go, I also submit the rest of me to the Lord — to seek His face, to hear His voice, to gaze at the only One who can really heal & change & grow me.

And I trust that … just as Moses’ face shown brightly after he met with the Lord on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:29) … all of me might shine a little brighter for His glory with my workout is done.

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.

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.

Cramping Up

“So Jacob named the place Peniel (which means ‘face of God’), explaining, ‘Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived’ … but he was limping because of his hip.”  Genesis 32:30b-31 (NET & NLT)

I went for a run today. Part of the way through, my left calf started to cramp up. Dehydrated? Maybe.  Still recovering from a prior workout? Probably.  Should I slow down our walk it out a bit?  But if I constantly accommodate for every ache and pain, I’ll never getting stronger.  Should I push through it?  But what if it’s really injured, or if I end up really injuring it?  Then I’ll be out of commission for a longer period of time.

The Christian journey can be like that, can’t it?  How are we to interpret events or circumstances that come our way?  Is God telling me to slow down or change directions?  Should I read the circumstances as a cautionary flag?  Or maybe he is trying to build perseverance and endurance in my character?  Maybe I need to look to Him for strength to push through?  How do I know how to respond or react?

I ask Him.

I ask the God who knows every cell of my frame & who loves me beyond my wild imaginings.  I ask Him what I am to do.

Sometimes He tells me.  Other times I have to try, in faith, what seems to be good and true.  Sometimes His answer is in accordance with conventional wisdom and knowledge.  Other times, it is completely counterintuitive. Sometimes I never really know.

And sometimes it is simply because He wants me to walk with a limp — for reasons of His own.

And I trust Him.

Thirst

“I lift my hands to you in prayer.  I thirst for You as parched land thirsts for rain.”  Psalm 143:6 (NLT)
Water is an amazing thing.  An adult human is made up of at least 60% water, and every living cell in the human body needs water to keep functioning.  Without water, a person can only survive a few days.

Have you ever been thirsty?  I mean really thirsty?  Perhaps you’ve gone on a major hike or attended a spin class without your water bottle?  Or maybe you have run a long race and, after passing up one water station, eagerly anticipated the next one?  Or maybe you’ve been dehydrated while sick, with your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth (that feels more like a cotton field)?

Or maybe you’ve seen an animal or a person who has been deprived of water for such a long time that they need that water like it’s their last breath?

Sometimes we need God like that.

Actually, we need God like that all the time … but we don’t feel the need for Him that acutely all the time.  (Kind of like with water ….)  At least that’s how it is with me.

But the older I get and the longer I go on this journey, the more I learn that it is God I truly thirst for.  From time to time, I turn other things that appear to offer refreshment or replenishment.  But it’s a mirage.  And I get frustrated, hurt and disappointed.  And, every time, I am reminded that it is only God that can satisfy my thirst.

To find my refreshment from God Himself — that is my true heart’s desire.  To thirst for Him — the God of heaven and earth — as a parched land thirsts for rain.  And to thirst for Him all the time.

So I have placed Psalm 143:6 and Psalm 42:2 around some of the major water sources in my home.  Particularly by the fridge in my gym.  Because I want to be reminded, especially in those moments when I am hot and tired and recognize my thirst, that it is God for whom I really thirst.

Navigating

“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.”  Proverbs 10:1 (NLT)

 No one wants to be a fool … but sometimes we do foolish things.  At least I do.  Do something foolish once?  Let me learn from it.  Let it make me better.  Fortunately, I have a Savior that covers me and my foolish choices.  But to continue in a pattern of foolish choices?  Well, then, perhaps the shoe fits … and I should wear it.

But we never want to admit this, do we?  We always have excuses and justifications for the choices that we make.  And yet, objectively, we make foolish choices all the time.

Take, for example, choices I see (and sometimes make) in the fitness arena:  you don’t want to miss your workout, so you workout anyway even though you are sick or injured.  Or this one: you don’t have time to work out regularly, so you work out extra hard when you do make it to the gym.  Neither one of those choices is very wise, but sometimes we choose one “offense” to avoid another one.   And sometimes the other offense is actually worse than the first.

This happens in other areas of life too.  We forego the piece of cake, then end up eating a bag of chips later.  We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so we speak untruths.  We tend to our children’s needs and, in doing so, overlook our spouses’.  We strive to be true to someone else, so we end up lying to ourselves and living in untruth.

The ways of wisdom are hard to navigate sometimes.  It’s hard sometimes to determine better from best … or to decide which is the lesser of two evils … or to take the time and have the vulnerability to open up to a third possibility.  No one wants to be a fool, but finding the way of wisdom can be challenging sometimes.  Sometimes the best choice is different than it first appears.

I pray that I might always learn from my mistakes and foolish choices and sin.  But more than that, I pray that I might learn the ways of wisdom.  To honor God.  To be true to others and to myself.  To serve everyone I can in the proper order of service.  To always speak the truth in love.

And sometimes, to eat the dang piece of cake!