Physical Fitness to Bring Glory to God
When asking the score of my granddaughter’s soccer game who at the age of seven had just begun playing the game, my son, her father, told me there wasn’t a score. They do not keep score so none of the children will be disappointed if they are on the losing side. We all know that competition, especially when over-zealous and virulent parents are out of control, can be driven to inappropriate and damaging ends. However, eliminating competition, winning and losing, is teaching children to live in a fantasy world that does not exist, rather than learning to live rightly in the real world. We all need to learn how to win and lose with true character, and the earlier children begin life’s lessons in this the better they are in maturing into men and women of character. The Bible gives no support for the errant self-esteem-philosophy that runs rampantly in the modern society and school system.
But this serves to introduce the subject of physical fitness which we are told is a not so practiced discipline in American lives. It is now being trumpeted that we are an obese nation. Along with the incredible speed of technological advancement in the last generation we have experienced both the blessings and curses which accompany it. Technology can be used for both sanctifying and paganizing purposes, and one of the non-sanctifying results of much of the new technology, I am not talking about work-out machines, is to steal time away from more redeeming activity that is better for the body, and also for the soul.
Yet you may ask, what is the sanctifying goal of physical fitness? Why do we do it if we do, and what is our goal? Is it to look better, or to live longer, or to save on doctor bills? Probably, all of the above. But this wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s primary purpose to which he speaks in our text. I have often wondered what specific things Paul did to stay in shape, because when you read of what he endured, he had to be an excellent physical specimen. One factor, of course, is the thousands of miles he must have walked. What Paul says is that he went into strict training to win a crown that would never fade away; obviously an eternal crown to the glory of God. Have you ever thought that your physical activity is for the glory of God? Is that or could that be your motivating factor of first importance leading to discipline?
This past week I attended the memorial service of a friend and fellow believer from my younger years. He was 20 years my senior but I can still vividly recall his warm smile, sincere interest in me, and redemptive conversation when I was a child up through my early adulthood. Our paths went in divergent directions and to different areas of the country. At his service I was reminded of his disciplined physical activity that was performed with great joy and with great delight in His Creator and in His creation; and as often as he could he did it with his family and friends, including my father. I learned that at the age of 50 he set as a goal to climb all 54 fourteeners in Colorado; which means all 54 of the mountain peaks in Colorado 14,000 feet and over. He summited 43 of them before sustaining a stroke that precluded any more climbs at that altitude. He did all this while being a husband and father of four children; very active in his church; sustaining an energetic and compassionate veterinary career, to include many mission trips volunteering his veterinary services. As I heard this I thought he should have lived to be 120 rather than 85. (Brain cancer took his life in a matter of weeks from diagnosis).
But he did not do all this to extend his life and neither should we; nor to improve his appearance or lessen his doctor bills, though these are subsidiary benefits not to be discounted. I think he did it of first importance to glorify God and to glory in what opportunities God had given him in his own body and in the delight of Creation. Physical fitness will never extend your life beyond what God has ordained for you, nor will it completely overcome the mystery of your genetics. Consider Jim Fix the great runner who died of a heart attack in his early 50’s while running, yet still outlived all the men in his family by ten years who also died of a heart attack. Consider the Strongest Man in the World, Paul Anderson, who died at the age of 61 from kidney disease, yet never gave up his physical fitness regime even when confined to his bed. No, God has ordained all the days for each one of us, and man knows not his time whether or not he chooses to pursue as physically fit a body and soul as possible.
Physical fitness with the goal of bringing glory to God is not a vanity; it is a necessity if God has given you a body capable of it. If you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30), physical fitness is a part of it. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and this speaks of the integral and intricate connection and communication of body and spirit, of mind and soul. Striving to be physically fit to the glory of God is an expression of your desire to love God more.
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Will the Real God Please Step Forward?
“To Tell the Truth was a television game show you just might not remember; on the air from 1956-1968 and syndicated in reruns thereafter. There were three contestants, one of whom was committed to tell the truth. The other two could lie as much as they desired to throw four guest celebrities each week off the track of which of the three contestants was telling the truth about him or herself. These four would ask questions of each of the three to be answered by a yes or no answer. The intent was to discover the “real McCoy, the one of the three who was telling the truth. The guest celebrities and the television audience would find out the answer when at the end of the show the host would say, “Will the real (name of the true person) please step forward?
In a sense this is the very same “game being played throughout the world with regard to God; the God who is the One True God who will not give His glory to another. The two lying contestants are symbolic of the many false witnesses and sources of errant information in every corner of the globe. For millenniums millions have dichotomized between a God of the Old Testament Scriptures and a God of the New. Of course, the God of the Old Testament was often in their eyes an ogre. In fact, we find such a dichotomy described as far back as the late first century by a Bible critic named Marcion (80-160 AD) who convinced a great many followers he was right. In recent years there have been some bestselling atheist authors who have espoused much the same fiction as Marcion. One of these writers, Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion wrote: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. One of his like-minded authors, Christopher Hitchens who wrote, God is not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything, recently met the “not great God face to face when cancer delivered him into the presence of the real God a few months ago. What must his first words have been when he realized the folly which characterized his life? (Read Psalm 73 and Luke 16:19-31 for a glimpse) Or the responsibility he bore in leading so many down a destructive path?
Your answer to the question, “Who is God? impacts your life in every tiny detail, if indeed there is such a thing as a “tiny detail when it comes to your life and the nature of its future. In fact you really do not truly understand who you are apart from knowing who God is. Until you can knowledgeably say with the Psalmist, “This God is my God, forever and ever; He will be my guide even unto death, you are ignorant of your true self as well as the true God. Knowing God is compiling all the truths of His person as it is spread on the pages of His word from Genesis to Revelation, and illustrated in the creation which He has brought into being and sustains from day to day. And this requires the integration and non-contradictory assimilation of those truths into the same Triune God who is always the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New, and the God of the New is the God of the Old, and is NOT one of the many false gods who litter the pages of history down to the present! This is the claim of the Scriptures throughout and is repeatedly confirmed by the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. Those who read differently, do so not on the written record communicated by the Holy Spirit, but in their own disbelief and willful twisting of the plain word to their own ends
Nevertheless, it is required of each of us that we “Study the Scriptures, to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth.(II Timothy 2:15) You will not know Him without diligent study and personal apprehension. Too many professing Christians simply do not know their God, and a few questions often expose the ignorance! One thing that ought to characterize every believer from now until he dies is the study of God’s Word for the purpose that he or she might know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. There is no greater work; no higher calling; no better use of time. Those who pursue it as a continuous activity in 2012 and beyond will have no cause for shame when the great Day comes. No matter how you look at it, the Word says that Day is soon. In other words, tomorrow is not too soon to get after it. What plan of study have you laid out for yourself in 2012?
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Your Magi Journey in 2012
The New Year is entered often with resolutions to conform more to a self-set standard you did not attain in the year past; or shall we say in many years past! At least this is a common beginning to the New Year. The spiritual or church year in a new calendar year has begun for many centuries with the observance of Epiphany on January 6. The Western church has primarily utilized this date to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus’ home in Bethlehem, possibly around a year after his birth in a stable nearby. “Epiphany means “manifestation or “striking appearance referring to the appearance of God in the flesh, God become man in the person of Jesus Christ, the long promised Messiah. And it is the rising of the star at his birth that drew the Magi from the East to begin their long journey to seek the one they knew to be the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah. Very possibly they were descended from Daniel-taught-Magi from centuries earlier. In any case they are a fascinating fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah that Gentiles will come to the Light “that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49) Jesus was the Light, yet what a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy that the light of the star of Jacob would bring Gentiles from so far to see in person the brilliant light of Immanuel, God with us; a Light that would banish darkness.
These Magi were reputed scholars, known for their wisdom as counselors to Kings and Princes. They were students of the sciences, scientists of the skies, investigators of the rational universe. Yet they undertook a long, arduous journey to see and worship a baby. What skeptics they must have stirred up. What mockers took delight in the scorn they heaped on them. What would people say of you were you to tell them you want to pursue a Magi journey in 2012? It was not enough for these “wise men to know of this new born King from a distance. Their comfortable surroundings were not powerful enough enticement to abandon the journey. They must see for themselves. They must see, and touch, and taste, and experience the very presence of this promised One. And whatever it took they were willing to pay the cost. A Magi journey in this day entails a purposeful, costly, and committed search to experience the presence of the King of Kings; to draw nearer and nearer to the Light of the world; to look in His face and retain in your face the Light which radiates from His.
Is there any more significant resolution for 2012 than drawing closer to the Savior; for you know you are not nearly as close as you can be; as you ought to be; as you want to be? Even one such as the Apostle Paul said late in his ministry, “I want to know Christ! (Philippians 3:10) A Magi journey takes time out of your already busy schedule. It necessitates prioritizing. It requires you to spend thoughtful time with Him alone; to see Him as He is. An elderly, beloved disciple, John put it this way, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. (I John 1:1) Such is possible for every believer in his own pursuit of Jesus by the Spirit who lives in you. It is costly; for like the Magi you must give up other things, important things, to pursue the most important. Procrastination only means that 2013 will be here before you know it, and you will be saying, “This year I am going to do it! 2012 is here now, and it may be your only year to begin or take your Magi journey.
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