One of the reasons why I am a Methodist is because of the disciplines practiced to obtain spiritual health. To learn briefly what they are, go HERE.
I always imagined treating these disciplines like I would muscle groups in the gym. I love bodybuilding and powerlifting, especially when they are put together in a program to build strength, symmetry, and more importantly longevity. Likewise, I see the Christian spiritual disciplines like powerlifting, symmetry, and longevity.
Powerlifting and Olympic weight lifting are very similar. The difference lies in where you start and how you finish. See where I am going with this? Are you "picking up what I'm laying down?" Powerlifting is power at the beginning of a movement that tapers off toward the end. Olympic lifting is essentially power throughout and ending solidly. Understand, that is a very general way of looking at it.
When I think of "heavy lifting" for spiritual exercises, I think it is reading the Word, praying, music, and ministering to the needy (hungry, fatherless, widowed). All of those things should be done individually and in community.
Bodybuilding is about shaping the body to look good, and to look good with minimal fat. There is a degree and danger of vanity here, because bodybuilding is about health and looking good. Too often people in the church just want to look good, and do things that make them look good. But inside, their empty and wanting.
In order to have good shaping in one's spiritual life, I think those are the things that cause us to go out of our comfort zones - that is where growth occurs. Growth occurs with a little "pain." No pain no gain after all. We need to allow and have God shape us and mold us to look more and more like him. We often think of our giftings at this point. I challenge that.
Jesus sent out about 150 disciples in 2s to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. I doubt every single disciple had the same gift set. So there is something about just getting the job done because it needs to be done. These are the places where we can be shaped and molded into the ambassadors of God that we need to be, through the power of His Holy Spirit. We need to be shaped by living out our faith. We have the Holy Spirit, and therefore have all the gifts of the Spirit. The one gift is the Holy Spirit. Be empowered and shaped by it.
Understand something. You ready?
If you exercise regularly, you are an athlete.
Did you chuckle or laugh? I can understand that. But understand yourself as an athlete, and act like one.
Same thing with being a Christian. If you believe in Jesus Christ you are a Christian. Act like one. Acting like a Christian is both hearing the Word and acting it out (doing it.) When we ... wait for it ... exercise our faith we are acting as ambassadors of Christ in the world. This isn't easy. This is like being up for the Supreme Court every day of our lives and people reminding us of our past, or accusing us of things to tear down who we are.
The same was done to Jesus.
We need to press on. Our strength is in the Lord, and our home is a present reality and a far away place. We live in the Kingdom of God now, and our longevity comes as we practice and live out the Disciplines. To believe in Jesus and then do nothing is not Christianity. To believe in Jesus and be saved from doing things our way (self-referenced life) and do things God's way (God-referenced life) we are at the beginning of a journey that goes on into perpetuity.
Grow in grace through the disciplines. Focus on some for a time, then others. Build your life in power, balance, and longevity as servants, sons, and daughters of the living God!
Going to the gym and going to church are very similar, as I have said in a previous post where I talked about how getting into shape physically took me some time. In fact, it seems like as life goes on and time ebbs by, we more and more want to take on less and less - whether or not it is good for us.
At key moments in life, people tend to "wake up" to the realization that healthy eating and exercise is actually important. And all too often at the end of life people realize, to late, that relationships and people are important, particularly family.
All too often we get in ruts where we feel like we need some kind of change for the better. These "better" changes often entail a job search (and subsequent search for the cost of another degree), looking into a gym, and looking to be more "spiritual." There seems to be a relative understanding that exercise will make you feel better and a more simple life with yoga or some kind of meditation or spiritual discipline can make life more meaningful.
Let's consider three particular ideas of the desire to get out of a life rut: desire for positive change, better health, and to be a better person.
Quite often we end up in a place in our lives when we want some kind of positive change. Haven't you? Nailing down what exactly the change is can be elusive, but the desire for something different is palpable. Either the job isn't going well, the relationship, the friendships, the lack of time for fun, or the finances getting in the way of being able to do just about anything.
Whatever the reason, we often end up in a place where we just need something positive to happen. That's really it isn't it? What we truly want is for something good to end up happening to us. The root of what we desire is not so much positive change, but to feel more happiness or joy ever single day. And we get to a point, quite often, where we feel like we need to make something happen in order to feel happier.
Once the realization of wanting to feel happier and have more positivity in life, we begin to weed out the Facebook friends list and join a gym. The thought process is usually something like, "time to get rid of all this negativity from all these negative people filling up my FB wall with nonsense and get my &*^ in shape." The desire is to clear the head and do more physical exercise and become one of those "happy people" who are in shape and seem to have great times.
That thought leads to the final decision many make, which is to become a better person. Once we get into that special "happy place" we'll want others to feel happy, even for a moment.
In that original post I shared above I talked about results and how they keep us going. I think that people often begin to see some tangible results in making those positive changes, better decisions, and becoming more health conscious. But that doesn't seem to last. Another rut comes, and so we begin to try to help others, or find a cause.
These are all good things.
But I wonder if there is more to each of these three things? Quite naturally, I think there is - otherwise I wouldn't have asked that! Over the next few weeks I'm going to look at each of these three individually.
For now, consider this: Are you in a rut? Have you made positive changes in your life? Are you getting healthy? Are you striving to be a better person? Are you struggling with any of these? Are you good, and just continuing in your journey? While you may not feel happy, are you content?
Connect with someone and chat over coffee about some of these things. Perhaps start a regular conversation to encourage a friend and be encouraged.
Some "weekly" musings from Pastor Dave as he sits on his porch and drinks coffee, thinking about theology and lifting heavy weights. For gymsharks, there is something called "Flex Fridays," where we vainly put up photos of ourselves flexing. So this blog is my attempt to flex my theological muscles through reflection ... get it?