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.

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.

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.

An Offering

“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 — this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)

If you are anything like me, there are days when you really look forward to your workout … then there are other days you’d much rather be elsewhere, whether it’s tackling the pile of work or the list of to-do’s. But regardless of your mood, I’d challenge you to offer your workout time as an act of worship. Say to God: “Lord, here I am to worship and to meet with You. Here I am, ready, open, available to hear from You … to meet with You … to bring myself, my thoughts, my needs, my desires … and lay them at Your feet … or to be quiet and hear and receive from You. As I do my part to care for this amazing gift of body that You made and designed just for me, I trust in You to be the one who cares for the whole of me — to strengthen, restore and heal me. I offer this time to You. Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.”

It has been my experience that every time I offer my workout time to God, He is faithful to meet me … and the time spent becomes more than physical workout time. It strengthens my body, mind and soul. The sweat releases impurities from more than just my physical body, and I am stretched in my entire being.

As this new year begins, I urge you, brothers and sisters, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Offer your workouts to Him and for Him … and, regardless of your mood, He will meet with you. This is a spiritual act of worship.

(For related discussion, see also Posture of Prayer entry, 7/22/14; Exercise as Worship 2 entry, 5/9/14; and Exercise as Worship 1 entry, 4/11/14.)

Exercise as Worship I

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

(By a very slight margin, you guys voted to hear about exercise as worship first. My next post, however, will address nourishment.)

Exercise as worship!? Isn’t that an oxymoron, you say? No, it’s not. Exercise can be an amazing pathway to meet with God. Here are a few tips to start:

1) Enter your exercise time in a posture of prayer. By that, I mean to begin your exercise time with an expectancy to meet with God. Just as you might enter a church service, a prayer meeting, a small group experience or serving opportunity … enter your exercise time with a desire and expectancy to meet with God. Set your thoughts on things above and look to Him and for Him during your workout. Talk to Him … or simply quiet your mind and listen for His still, small voice.

2) Equip yourself with a personal, inspirational verse. Mine is Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Whenever I’m getting tired, bored or just want to quit, I recite Philippians 4:13 to myself. When I am trying something new or hard and begin to doubt myself, I recite Philippians 4:13 and trust Him to help me do my best. There are many great verses. (Caution: this is not permission to try to do stupid stuff, calling on Jesus to help you. This is within the context of reasonable challenges appropriate for your current fitness level.)

3) Run your own race. By that, I mean to forget about the people around you and what they are doing. Don’t look at the speed they are running or the amount of weight they are lifting.  Run your own race. Choose appropriate challenges for yourself and stop comparing. It’s like what Jesus said to Peter when Peter asked about the fate of another disciple; Jesus said, “what’s that to you? You follow me.” (John 21:22). This is not a comparative race.  Focus only on you and God when you workout.  You have your race. They have theirs.