My Fitness

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

kindness leads to repentance

There exists a type of shame that reveals our sins to us. With our eyes open to our sin, this shame leads to repentance. This is good. We do not need to wallow in our shame. We need to repent. It is a kindness of God to allow this shame. This kindness is love. 

To my shame, I was inspired by past teachings and remembered this right after I yelled at the kids for bickering. Shame is ok if it leads to repentance. Well-placed shame is a gift from God that leads to conviction and restoration. "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17"

It is easier to be myself; to sin. I must die to myself every day and take up my cross if I am to follow Christ. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

faith, hope, and love

For the longest time, I found myself doubting everything. If someone said something, I doubted its truth. If I read something, more doubt. It didn't matter if it was a newspaper, a textbook, or the Bible. I doubted. I didn't like this about myself but I hated being deceived and I had a trickster for a father who delighted in watching me fall for his lies. These were usually benign jests but the foolishness bothered me. I didn't want to be a fool any more.

I prayed for wisdom and faith. I wanted to have faith in the Bible. I wanted to believe. The first step I found was to read the Word for myself. No one can trick you into thinking something is in the Bible that isn't if you're reading it for yourself. They can still trick you into thinking it means something other than what it means so you must also study it more than merely reading.

[I'm reminded of a foolish child who was slightly older than me trying to tell me that the Bible said I had to do what they said because it says to "respect your elders". HAHAHAHAHAHA! oh kids.]

My reading led to more praying, and praying led to more reading. Every time I doubted something, I'd pray and find a Scripture to help me find the wisdom in the situation. Eventually this led to someone remarking on my spiritual gifting of faith. I was shocked! I had been praying for faith and acting and speaking the words of faith but I didn't feel any different. But my friend was right - I was acting in faith. I did this and not that because in faith I was believing the Word of God. I didn't even realize it. I don't think it was a "gift" so much as a "discipline". I had to learn it. This was ten years ago.

This week I heard a sermon that spoke about faith and hope. You can find it here. One of the points I remember is that faith looks back to the cross and hope looks forward to the promises of God. So I learned that all this time what I was calling "faith" is actually called "hope". [I don't know the Greek words, so these might not be the right definitions still. But my second point still remains that God listens to the heart..."groanings too deep for words".]

This is great on two fronts for me personally. First, I had just been wondering what hope was because I hope I get to live at the beach and I hope my dinner tastes good, but surely that isn't the same as the Biblical "hope". And it isn't. The second is that I'm so glad God doesn't take my words literally. We don't have to be eloquent and well-spoken, or even use words correctly, to pray and receive from God what he wants for us. He didn't even seem to care that I was using the wrong word. He knew my heart and he knows yours. He's not a magic genie waiting for a specific incantation or magic spell to be spoken. He wants our hearts.

With talk of faith and hope, my mind naturally went to the conclusion of I Corinthians 13: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. What does that mean? Faith looks back to the cross. Hope looks forward to the promises. Love is present life. It is good to have faith in the cross of Christ. It is good to have hope in the promise of heaven. But love covers a multitude of sins and allows us to live in peace with each other. Love draws others to Christ. My faith and my hope does not affect you, but my love for God is naturally expressed in love for you and living a life in Christ that edifies and up-lifts you. A life of Love sacrifices self for the good of others. A life of Love puts your needs before mine. A life of Love treats you the way I would want to be treated. A life of Love gives without expectation of any return. Love reaches so far into the past and into the future beyond measure. Love encompasses faith and hope. You can't love God without having faith and hope.

So now my new prayer is to learn to love. Maybe in ten years someone will say that I have the gift of love. I will read and pray and pray and read until then. I will act as best as I can in love. This is not natural for me and I readily admit my failings. I am not a loving person. But I'm also not a faith or hope person and yet people say that I am - that is not me but Christ in me. So hopefully, I will also be loving because that too will be Christ in me.

edit to add: since writing this, I've read THIS sermon, again by Piper, that further encourages me in the Path as described above.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

natural vs spiritual gifting

Briefly, the difference between a natural gifting and a spiritual gifting is its use to the Body of Christ. Someone can be a gifted speaker and not be edifying or up-lifting. Whereas another person might be clumsy and ineloquent and yet still edifying and up-lifting. If you are merely talented, then you have natural giftings. If you are a natural or not, but God is using your talent (or lack of talent) for his glory and the building-up of the Saints, then you are spiritually gifted.

Similarly, if you think it's your duty to "speak up" for the "truth" and can't do it lovingly, i.e. a way that others can receive it and hear it, then you do not have that spiritual gifting.

I'm writing this because I've known and have personally encountered people who think they are somehow more "spiritually aware" than those around them. It's not been true thus far. If you have to tell people how spiritually aware you are, you are most likely a very new believer. And "new" doesn't always correspond to elapsed time. You can be a believer for 60 years and still be "new".

My problem comes from receiving these people's rebukes and "words from God" that if in the Old Testament they'd be stoned for speaking because of their lack of truth. But no matter how many times these people speak to me and try to "lovingly correct" me (over things that are simply not there) they've never been right. Even if part of what they say is right, their conclusion has always been faulty, hurtful, and godless. For a long time I felt that maybe these people saw me more clearly than I saw myself. I thought I was crazy. Luckily, their lies were revealed. I no longer live in slavery to their vindictiveness. I don't know why these people chose me to bully. Perhaps they saw me as easy prey since I was wanting to please God and they used a spiritual front to attack.

But now I attack back:

If someone says something unloving even if true, this is not the spirit of God. God is love. If they come back with, "What do you want me to say? You want me to LIE?" This is a sure sign of immaturity. A mature person knows that you don't have to say anything. A mature person knows that God works with people through his Word and the Body of Believers and that just because someone has an unresolved issue still doesn't mean they always will. A mature person knows that their past is not the standard by which other people are measured. A mature person knows to not compare someone else's struggles with their own strengths. A mature person won't send you a text message accusing you of things they heard from another source without at least finding out the circumstance; and they probably won't assume that it's their place to correct. A mature person won't sit a group of people in a circle and single out someone about something without first talking to them; they certainly won't then ask if anyone else has anything else to add. These are the actions of hatred, not love.

It's the lack of humility in these actions that is the tell-tale sign of the lack of the Spirit. If you can't admit that you're a hypocrite, then how can anyone believe anything you say? You're still lying to yourself. Every mature Christian I know will readily admit their hypocrisy. They readily admit their constant need for repentance. They readily admit that they still suck and are in need of Christ. Even while they have Christ they recognize that they are messing up and it's only by God's grace that there is anything worthy in them - it isn't them, it's Christ in them.

So if you find yourself thinking of yourself more highly than you should, bring yourself low before God does. It's must easier and pleasant to humble yourself than to be humiliated by God. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

the third commandment

With the understanding that people debate over the numeration of commandments, let's go forward here knowing that I mean Exodus 20:7: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. It is the same as Deuteronomy 5:11.

When I was a kid, pop culture often used the various names of God as a means of cussing or filling in for "um" or other mental pause. Rarely did I actually hear someone use the name of God as a cuss. Usually it was an exclamation of "wow". I asked why we weren't to use the name of God "in vain" and what did that mean anyway. The best explanation given to me was that God only wanted people using his name to get his attention. Wouldn't I find it annoying if people went around saying, "Lauren" all the time and not wanting to talk to me? 

Well, that's dumb. 

Do people really think that's the reason? I was given so many stupid answers to my theological questions as a kid that I quickly decided to read the Bible for myself and read commentaries and studies because the adults in my life gave really dumb answers. 

God isn't sitting around in the cloud waiting for someone to say his name and then getting disappointed when they weren't actually talking to him. He isn't like some cosmic dog waiting to go for a walk only to be disappointed when his owners pass him by. God knows who is talking to him and who isn't.

So why doesn't he like it? I can think of two reasons.

The first is a different meaning of "taking in vain". 
Matthew 7
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7
These verses lead me to conclude that many Religious People take the name of God such as "Christian" but it's for nothing. Just because you call yourself a Christian does not mean you are a Christian. I took my husband's name when we married, but if I only changed my name that would not make me married to him. I could even bake him things and clean up after him but that would not mean I was married to him. 

The second reason God doesn't want his name used in vain is what it does to our hearts. Along the lines of speaking a word so that it loses its power, when we speak God's name in irreverence we numb our hearts to Him. He says of himself, "I am Who I am" is his name. He is not a god named Yahweh. He is Yahweh. He is not separate from his name. While God's name does not actually lose its power, using it in vain is the product of our hard hearts. Just like all the other commandments are products of sinful hearts, Christ has to explain that it is more than just the action itself that is sinful; it is the heart that is sinful. He wants us to worship him. He deserves our worship. He deserves our reverence. Using his name in vain is disrespectful, rude, and irreverent to God. I wish I were more eloquent and could better articulate and adequately describe what I mean. 

Culturally, some people say "Mr." or "Mrs." and in others "-san" to the end of one's name, but these are not God's cultures. His name is revered based on what he says. And he says "don't take my name in vain."

The take-away is this: check your heart. Are you a "christian" in vain or do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do you speak the name of the Lord in love and reverence or do you use it to fill a pause in your sentence?

Friday, May 26, 2017

praying to God

I've heard it said that people often develop a sense of who their Heavenly Father is based on who their earthly father is. I've wondered if I also did this. The examples are always of an uncaring and distant earthly father. My dad cared for me was generally nice. He exasperated me and teased me relentlessly and would then be condescending if I believed his lies jokes. But I didn't attribute those ungodly characteristics with God. I thought, then, that I didn't confuse the two.

Then I caught myself in prayer this past week. I was finding that I felt I needed to be very specific because I didn't want God to grant me my request but have it drenched in poison. Do you remember that episode of Twilight Zone The Man in the Bottle? The genie grants the couple's requests with catches to make every outcome worse than where the couple started. One wish was for money but then the tax assessor decides it must have been illegally acquired. The final wish was to be a great world leader and the man is turned into Hitler right before he commits suicide.

That's how my earthly father is. If you ask him for a dollar, he'd say, "How about four quarters?" And then cut a piece of paper into fourths - viola! Four quarters! of a piece of paper. Asking my earthly father for anything was met with sarcasm and catches. Sometimes he was outright and unexpectedly generous. He has more than once filled my car with gas when he went to move it out of the way of his car, for instance. If he were visiting I can bet that I will come home at least once to a very clean dining room or living room or both!

But if I ask him for something, I get nothing. If I expect something from him, I get worse. It's very backward. I never understood Luke 11:11-12 (What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him scorpion?). As a 7-year-old I confronted my father with Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4 about how fathers are to treat their children. The NIV which I was reading at that age said "do not exasperate your children". I asked why he did this. Why tease me to tears and watch me get so angry about not knowing all the double meanings until I gave up talking to him? He said that isn't what the verse meant but couldn't tell me what it did mean. It's because that's exactly what it meant.

Now I have to remind myself that God is not like that. He's not trying to "get me" or to throw out catches with my granted request. If I ask to live at the beach, he's not going to say, "Wish granted! Now you're a homeless person and your children are taken by CPS and your husband is dead." That's not how God works. He's going to work for my best. If he doesn't grant my request, he will still be with me. He's not playing a game. He isn't teasing me or testing me to see if I can see every outcome of my words. He knows that I am not all-knowing. He isn't going to treat me as part of the god-head Trinity. He knows that I am a child. I do not have either because I do not ask or because I ask selfishly; not because he's cruel and not because he enjoys watching me squirm.

So I pray in peace now knowing that I cannot jinx my prayer and that God isn't waiting for a magic formula of words before he acts. I ask constantly just like my kids ask me for things. I pray without ceasing. I come to the Father like a child because he knows how to give good things. He isn't my earthly father and he isn't a Twilight Zone genie. He is my Good Shepherd.

[I guess this is also a lesson to fathers. I no longer ask my dad for anything and rarely talk to him even if we are in the same room because the amount of sarcasm and lack of straight talk is ridiculous. It's childish and immature. Know your children. If your child isn't enjoying your teasing, then stop. Some kids think it's funny. Stop being mean to your kids. It isn't funny unless they are in on the joke. My mother and father would say to me, "Why do we have to change? Why can't you change?" Because I was a child. I was a child acting like a child. I now act like an adult and I am distanced from my parents because of their immature behavior. They were and are adults acting and behaving as small children.]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

surrender all

I have been going through a Beth Moore study called John. It's very basic but what I like about it is that it can be done quickly (handy with four kids running around!) and it can be in-depth or not depending on the reader.

With my husband flying to a work conference earlier this week, my overly-active pregnancy imagination has been thinking about what how we will cope when he dies in a plane crash. How we will survive. Where we will live. Our car, income, schooling, etc has all been considered. It sounds a bit crazy but I haven't been obsessing, it was just a thought. In my imagination, everything works out. But the point is that I would be stricken with despair for a period of time.

It wasn't any consolation when today's lesson was how to trust God through despair. I started wondering, "hey God are you trying to prepare me for something?"

And yes, He is. He is preparing me for eternity. He is training me in righteousness and conforming me to the image of His Son, Jesus. Who has suffered more than Christ? And through His Passion by the joy set before him he endured the cross and became sin, such a feat we barely understand. It is such a small thing then to say I surrender all to him!

What does it mean to surrender all to Jesus? It means I give up my culture, my identity, my desires, my thinking, the people I love, the activities I enjoy, the possessions I have. It's all gone. Practically that means any time my culture conflicts with the Bible, I side with the Bible. If my culture says that morally we do one thing but the Bible disagrees, then we disagree. If I identify as one type of gender but the Bible says otherwise, then I surrender my rights to decided who I am and let God decide. If my desires are for a certain lifestyle but the Bible says "no" then I give up my desires and stop seeking that lifestyle. My family and friends are not here to serve me or for me to serve them, but together we serve Christ. They come and go to the glory of God. I do not get to cling so tightly to my husband that I say he is the love of my life - that honor is for Christ alone. Our marriage is built on the solid foundation of God - not on love, mutual respect, or even the desire to do good. Should he leave me through death, my life goes on. Our marriage dies when one of us dies. It does not carry on. If I burry one of my children, their memory will live with me, but they will not. They don't live in my heart and they don't watch me from the clouds. They can't hear me when I call out to them. Signs and omens will be a construct of my imagination and not come from ungodly power source they discover upon death.

I surrender my thinking. I don't get to decide what is right and wrong based on what I feel. I get to read the Bible every day and decide what is right and wrong, morally, based on what pleases and displeases God. My opinion is conformed and changed into his opinion. I don't get to say, "All babies go to heaven because I just can't imagine God sending a baby to hell." That's not what the Bible says. The Bible is silent about special circumstances; so I remain silent about special circumstances. But I'm not going to LIE and say "God would not do that" when he never said such things. I get to say, "I don't know what he does but I know that after we die the truth will be revealed and we will agree that what he has done is GOOD."

If my possessions do not honor God, I get rid of them. If I am not using what he has given me to bring him glory, then I change that item's purpose. If I enjoy an activity that is ungodly, then I stop. If my motives behind an otherwise good activity are not godly then I change my attitude or stop the behavior. I do not have kids because I want kids. I have kids to honor God.

I give it all to him freely, not begrudgingly. I'm not reluctant to give him my birth control because I know that only He creates life and any life (or 12) that he creates was on purpose. Does that mean I give up vacations and a nice house? Quite possibly. But I give that to him too. I give it all. My life is not my own. I do not live for me. I do not live for happiness. I do not live for justice. I do not live for the greater good. I live only for God's glory which is the only way to receive true happiness, true justice, true goodness.

I will always love him because he did the greatest sacrifice for me - he became my sin so that my sin is gone. We don't grasp the vastness of that sentiment. We don't understand the enormity of disgustingness that is our tiniest sins. We see people as "innocent" and "guilty". But if surrender all to him, I surrender that concept too which is counter-biblical. The Bible says that all have sinned and we are all sinners. We are all guilty.

But I trust him. Trusting God means I know his word is right. He will do what he has said he will do. I trust that he is working everything together for good for those who love him.

Daily, I will be in his presence. That means I'm more than a church-goer. I'm more than just a check-box Christian. I read the Bible every day, but I also meditate on it. I memorize it. I let it change me.

I fail hourly. But I'm trying. I want to be better and be more like Jesus. It's hard. I do not understand my own actions. I don't do what I want to do, and I do the very things I hate. I don't understand me. But I surrender me to God.

Monday, April 3, 2017

cultural blind spot

Traveling across the United States, I've experienced many of the cultures that call this country home as well as many cultures that have come across the sea to call this country their second home.

Originally I was going to write in detail about the strangeness of this one particular culture that I was forced to inhabit. It was decidedly odd due to the fact that it claimed to have a singular grasp of Christianity and yet failed to be godly in almost any regard. But digging up the memories was painful and lead into another lesson I've been trying to grasp about learning to love a people despite their culture and even through their culture (although especially difficult with this group of people who were so lost and blind and yet thought they were the only ones who could see..."hypocrite" is an understatement). So instead of this tangent curve, I'm using this one paragraph to say that this culture had giant blind spots.

It's easy to see other people's blind spots.

What they revealed to me was that blind spots exist. And being a bit of a realist and humble enough to know that I am sinful (and not just a vague "nobody's perfect"), I started asking myself where my blind spots are.

It's easy to see other people's blind spots. But you can't see your own. You need help. When it's pointed out you have to be willing to accept that you are wrong. You have to change. You have put your pride aside and let yourself be conformed into the image of Christ.

(Christ does not belong to a single culture. Your culture is not Biblical or godly unless it is the culture outlined in our ancient Scriptures. It isn't, so it isn't. Democracies, republics, socialism, anarchy, or communism are not godly forms of government. Stop worshipping your political preference.)

I have four kids and am pregnant with my fifth. I am almost exclusively exhausted. This is hard. My job and hobbies are physically active and require a high level of fitness. I pity myself regularly that my arms seem more adept to holding hands than for a perfect port de bras or solid plank. I literally cry. Why can't I seem to stay fit while pregnant? It makes me sad. It makes me mad. I should be able to be fit.

Enter in my husband with his ever-blunt words of practicality. Apparently in my culture of physical fitness I have been blinded into what womanhood is. Raising kids and being a good wife while maintaining my temple is good and right. And I'm doing that. Being at my physical peak is not a requirement that God has placed on me. That doesn't mean I sit around and eat Doritos all day. I do my best to beat my body into submission but I do it knowing that it's a secondary or even tertiary to my main goal of glorifying God with my family.

[Some people get to focus on their physical fitness and God has called other people to other things. I'm not downplaying that or saying they are not being women. But when you are a wife, your focus should be your husband. If children enter the picture, they come next. A wife takes a seat behind her husband. A mother, behind her children. (Husbands take a seat behind their wives. Fathers, behind their children.)]

So here I've been critically and painfully aware of the shortcomings of the cultures that surround me wondering how they can be so blind all while my own fitness culture has blinded me to the fact that I am very physically fit. Idolizing fitness is not necessary. And it's sinful.

Thus I slay that idol. All cultural idols must die. I will never be happy as long as they live in my heart.

If you are prideful in this area, you will fall and it will be painful. The only way to find those blind spots and slay that dragon is to honestly let God shape your worldview. I've seen many people who claim to have a Biblical worldview but they still bring their culture into that worldview. You have to be willing to be wrong. You have to be willing that people you dislike are right.