Exercise for a Healthy Body

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I recently read that almost half of Americans say they want to lose weight, but only about half of those people are actually making any attempt to do anything about it. While the lack of follow through is disturbing, I think this desire for physical health is great because God has given us these bodies and a healthy body is a good thing! However, of far more importance than a healthy physical body is a healthy spiritual body and far more disturbing than a lack of effort at physical health is a lack of effort at spiritual health.

THE CHURCH; THE BODY OF CHRIST

Interestingly enough, God frequently uses the physical human body as a metaphor for His body – the church. While this term can be accurately used to refer to both the universal church (the entirety of believers in all times and in all places) and the local church, the majority of the New Testament emphasis on the church is referring to individual local churches. That’s because the local church is of great importance to God. It is through the local church that He plans to spread His gospel. It is through the local church that He intends to cultivate mature believers. It is through the local church that He intends to provide accountability, support and opportunities for ministry. It is, in fact, the local church that He has chosen to represent Him in a world that has rejected Him. With this tremendous responsibility in mind, the health of the local church should be of great importance to each of us who claim to be followers of Christ. Since the church is made up of people, a healthy local church is really just believers living the way God expects – and a big part of that is how we get along with each other. Just as weight loss cannot take place without working at it, a healthy church won’t just happen without some intentional effort. So, here are three spiritual exercises that will lead to a healthy church body.

PURSUE UNITY

First is unity. In order to have healthy relationships with your church family, you must make unity a priority. I don’t mean unity as in everybody being the same and I certainly don’t promote a lack of diversity. Too many churches think that the fact that they look the same, like the same things and agree on everything is unity. That’s not unity – that’s laziness. Unity is being different and even having disagreements and still being able to have mutual love and respect because of Jesus. Unity is working through differences for the greater purpose of God’s Kingdom. Unity is the deep and genuine joining together of the hearts of believers to each other through a mutual pursuit of Christ. True unity is only achieved through pursuit of Christ above all. You must stop pursuing your ideas, your desires, your comfort, your convenience and start pursuing unity through Christ!

RESOLVE TO PRACTICE HUMILITY

That type of unity requires humility, a quality that is foreign to our natural selves and is only through achievable through God’s grace. As Paul points out in Philippians 2, practical humility is basically a selfless concern for others. We reject selfishness and pride. We do not strive for our own glory or positions of power. We do not try to manipulate to get our way because we truly believe that other people are more important than us. A healthy church consists of believers that live out the creed: “others matter to me more than I matter to me.” Too many churches are filled with believers who just care about themselves. We must renounce this kind of selfishness and embrace a Christ-like humility.

RESOLVE TO PARTICIPATE IN SERVICE

The final characteristic of healthy church relationships that I would like to mention is sacrificial service. Service costs something. It costs something in terms of effort, money or time. It might also cost in reputation. It certainly costs in pride. The cost might be different for each of us, but serving others will cost something – though in the long term those costs are meaningless. After all, what is money and time and energy other than currency to be spent for the kingdom?! When that is our mindset we realize that though there is a temporal cost to serving others, there is also an eternal reward. God honors His humble servants. Additionally, there is also a very real benefit here and now. When we commit to serving and caring for others we find ourselves cared for beyond our wildest imagination.

God’s plan for His church is designed to be best for all of us. His plan is that individual believers will function as a single local community that loves and cares for each other. This won’t happen if each of us is only concerned with what we can get out of church or how our interests can be served. It is time that we stop doing lip service to the idea of a healthy church and begin exercising the principles that will actually make it true.

 

Photo Credit Dwight Burdette. Original here.

Humility

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Every once in a while, I think God decides that one of His children needs an extra dose of humility. I recently experienced one of those times on a visit with family for the holidays. Over the course of just a couple of days I was thrown from a horse, got beat at video games by various 9-10 year olds and fell asleep during a late-night football game that my 80 year old Grandma stayed up until 3:00am to finish. To top off the weekend, a dear older lady from my parent’s church greeted me with everyone’s favorite term of endearment: “hey fatty.” Ouch! Needless to say, it was not my finest hour.

Truthfully, I laughed it all off at the moment. However, as I considered these events later, I was reminded of this statement I heard at a conference once: “God’s Plan A for your life is humility; His Plan B is humiliation.” God desires for his children to humble themselves, to choose humility. That is His plan and desire for us, but He will humble us when we refuse that plan.

I’m not saying there was anything specific that I was feeling prideful or arrogant about, nor am I saying definitively that God orchestrated those events as some sort of punishment. The weekend just got me thinking about humility and our need to humble ourselves before God. Pride is so natural to our flesh that we must regularly and intentionally seek to destroy it in our lives. We must not approach it casually or passively. Here are some thoughts on pride that might help you as you seek to humble yourself before God.

  • Assume you are prideful. One mistake many Christians make is to assume they are generally humble and occasionally pride sneaks in, though the opposite is actually true. Our flesh is consumed by pride and we must work by God’s grace to be humble.
  • Ask God to show you your pride. Remember, it is not a question of if you are prideful, but of how pride manifests itself in your life. Prayerfully ask God to search your heart, as the psalmist says, and to show you where there might be any pride.
  • Use humiliating circumstances as an evaluative tool. The way you respond to humiliation – whether it’s being passed over for a promotion you thought was yours or just being called fatty by a little old lady – can tell you a lot about whether or not you are humble. They can also remind you to search your heart for pride that might be there in case God is trying to use those moments to teach you a lesson.
  • Practice humility. Humility is not natural. There is a reason God says to humble ourselves – we aren’t humble by accident. We have to work at it. Find ways to make yourself small. Volunteer for the most thankless position. Do something anonymously for someone. Go last. Find ways in your daily life to practice humility and it will slowly become more natural to you.
  • Concentrate on pride’s most frequent manifestation in your life. I don’t think that we will ever be totally free of the sin of pride while we are still entangled with our flesh in this life, but God can and will give us victory in specific areas. More than likely, you have a specific circumstance that triggers pride or a specific issue that you are prideful about. Focus on eliminating that area first, with God’s help.
  • Don’t let failure discourage you. In all likelihood you will fail in some area of pride at some point in your life. Confess it and move on. Don’t give up on humility. Just prayerfully start over asking the Spirit to help you be humble.

Every human will have their struggles with pride, but it is the responsibility of God’s children to seek humility. Though this is contrary to our nature, it is not without its reward. James 4:10 says if you “humble yourselves before the Lord … He will exalt you.” When we prefer others, act humbly and forsake pride we are figuratively placing ourselves in the lowliest of positions at God’s feet, as a peasant groveling before a king. Our Great King, however, does not look down on us for our lowliness. Instead, He reaches down and gently lifts us up to stand before Him in exaltation. His plan for us to humble ourselves is not so that we will be humiliated before Him, but so that we can be exalted in the proper manner at the proper time. It is only through humility that we can fully honor God and be honored by Him.

 

Photo Credit flickr

Taking a Stand

Let’s face it. The world we live in is not an easy one to navigate from a moral perspective. A casual assessment of our culture and society in America, or world events in general, could produce a host of topics that create controversy and confusion as to how God’s people ought to view or react to them. Some examples might include topics like evolution, gender roles, homosexuality, gay marriage, terrorism, immigration, America’s international military presence, etc. More than likely, that list included topics you’ve made up your mind about, ones that you are thinking about and probably some you didn’t even know you needed to make up your mind about. Though I as well have opinions, my point here is that there are an abundance of sides to be taken and we as Christians will inevitably find ourselves doing so at one point or another. I recently posted some thoughts for Christians to consider as we make decisions on when we should take a stand and how to choose those issues, so now I want to offer some advice on how to take a stand once you’ve decided you should.

  • Be humble. This is necessary even if there is no doubt you are right (a clear biblical statement), but especially important on those “gray” issues that are not specifically addressed in Scripture. You can humbly form strong opinions about a variety of social or political issues, but please understand that there are good people who disagree with you and humbly allow for the differences.
  • Be loving. My encouragement would be that if you choose to take a stand on a political or social issue, please do it with love. The need to take a stand for a biblical principle does not give license for being mean. In fact, the more serious and potentially controversial your stand is, the more attention you should give to demonstrating love while taking that stand. Paul urged believers in 1 Corinthians 16:14 to “do everything in love.” I think this manifests itself in two important ways. First, we must demonstrate love toward those who we feel we must oppose or “take a stand” against. Second, please show love to your fellow Christian who does not choose to stand on the same issue. Christianity has embarrassed itself on numerous occasions through the fighting of its constituents.
  • Be respectful. Much of the offense attributed to Christians is because they take their stand in disrespectful ways, particularly through speech. There is no reason to name-call, use vulgar or disrespectful terms or be mean-spirited with your words. Kindly explain your reasons and then leave it alone if possible. Debate is generally an ineffective means of changing someone’s mind. Even worse is the horribly impersonal form of debate found in the medium of social media. Whatever the context in which you find yourself discussing your position, be nice and respectful.
  • Be evangelistically minded. Use the stand you take to point others to Jesus. Never forget that the most important issue is that of one’s eternal state. If you must take a stand on an issue, make you sure that to the best of your ability you do it in a way that does not leave them less open to the gospel. You may actually be able to take your stand and present Christ at the same time.

My concern as I observe the church today is not that we are taking a stand for what is right, but that we are attacking those we should be loving and disappointing the God we are claiming to stand for. We must take to heart Paul’s statement in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Paul’s reference to the name of Jesus means “as His representative.” My desire is that when we take our stand it is not an act of fear, selfishness or spite, but rather an act of loving ambassadorship for the One who gave Himself for us.