Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On Exercise

I have been told many times that when if you begin an exercise regimen and keep at it, your body will get to the place of wanting it and you will begin to enjoy it.  I wonder how long it takes.  I have been walking two miles a day for I don't know how long and I STILL have to force my body to get moving every time.  I think Paul understood what I am going through when he said,
"For exercise of the body profits a little for this time, but righteousness profits in everything, and it has the promise of life for this time and of the future." I Timothy 4:8 Aramaic Bible in Plain English
At least I like to pretend he did.  The thing is, he probably didn't need extra exercise since he already walked virtually everywhere (except for boat trips).  Not only that, but they had to find food daily, whether by walking to the market, fishing, or hunting.
I think my biggest gripe is the amount of time it takes out of my day. 40-45 minutes is nothing to sneeze at.  I laugh when they have exercise commercials about JUST taking 30 minutes a day to work your body!!  To me that is a good chunk of time, especially when I'd rather be reading, studying and writing; then there is crocheting, cleaning, cooking, sewing and so many other things I would RATHER be doing!! 
As I started putting my tennis shoes on, this blog came to mind.  I still have only on one shoe.  However, since my foot is getting cold, I will put on the other quickly.
While physical exercise profits a little NOW, I notice that righteousness profits not only now, but in the future.  So, while I am stalling a bit at the physical, I will exult at the thought that perhaps this bit of writing might encourage someone who reads it. 
The Free Dictionary gives a clear and Biblical description of righteousness.
Righteousness is to be morally upright; without guilt or sin
The problem is, we have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  Therefore we cannot be truly righteous, so how can anything we do be of any profit for now or the future other than physical exercise, which is only good for the now?  (We can see the truth in this, because the moment we stop exercising, problems of weight and/or health, such as loss of muscle mass, begin to take effect in our bodies.)  Praise God for always having the answer!!
For he has made him (Jesus), who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
 II Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
That is such wonderful news!!  We (those of us who have not only believed Jesus is God's Son and that He died and rose again, but have received Him as our personal Savior through prayer; seeking cleansing from sin through His death on the cross and eternal life through His resurrection from the dead) are now the righteousness of God Himself!! 
Now we can do one of two things with this information; in humility lift up praise and honor to God for such a precious gift and seek to serve Him in ANY way possible, or become proud and arrogant that God has chosen us to be used by Him and look down on those not as "holy and righteous as we."  Most of us, if we are completely honest, tend to do a bit of both. 
But that is not the point I have on my heart.  Here it is: Now that we have become His righteousness, how do we live it out in the world and draw others to Him because of it?  I think Philippians 2 has the answer:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Simply put, become more like Jesus.  How?  There is an old saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," meaning that children tend to become more like their parents as they grow older.  This is not ALWAYS the case, but mostly.  Why?  Because they are around their parents most of the time growing up.  They have been observing, admiring, and trusting their parents to lead them in the right direction for real life.  When they have parents that seem to have the answer to life, they want to be just like them so they can have the answer as well.  So they get to know their parents through conversations and studying them.
It is the same with Jesus.  If we want to be more like Him, we must get to really know Him.  We KNOW He has the answer to life, so why wouldn't we want to be more like Him?
Reading our Bibles is awesome and will give us some insights, at least into His great love for people and hatred for sin and the effect it has on our lives.  However, studying is better in that some of the words have a bit of a different meaning now than when written.  Righteousness is one of those words.  Back then it was an automatic knowing that the words were speaking of being sinless.  Now, however, the definition has changed a bit without us even noticing in the Christian world, because it still seems "close enough."
adjective: righteous
  1. 1.
    (of a person or conduct) morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
    "he is a good, righteous man, I am sure"
    2.  USinformal
    very good; excellent.
    "righteous bread pudding   
    That is one simple example, but there are many, so study is more vital today than ever before, because simply reading doesn't give us full meaning.  And then there is conversation, the easiest and hardest thing for us to do.  While we find it immensely simple to speak to a human being, we become tongue tied when speaking with our heavenly Father!!  Why?  I think because we still have a tendency to think of Him as being "out there," distant both physically and emotionally.  I can assure anyone who wants to know that if we can force ourselves to get up and do physical exercise, we can make ourselves get on our knees and speak with God.  The "trick" so to speak, is to imagine Him right there in the room with you.  I have actually pictured Him sitting in the arm chair.  I have "crawled up in His lap" and poured my heart out to Him.  You may think it silly and fanciful, but He did promise to always be with us!!  (Matthew 28:20) Other times I have written my prayers in journals.  Recently it has become easier for me to simply pray aloud in a whisper.  It doesn't matter how we pray, simply that we do it.  Conversation is never one way though.  We also must listen.  God doesn't always speak while I am praying.  As a matter of fact, He usually doesn't.  But while I am working, playing, making a gift or whatever, times I am mentally quiet, He speaks to me in a quiet and gentle voice what He wants me to do, or sometimes He gives me insight into a passage I have asked Him about.  Know this, He always answers when we ask, we are just not always listening for the answer He has to give.Father, You are so extremely lovely and wonderful!  I know I have more to learn about You than is possible to learn in a lifetime, but I want to know as much of You as IS possible.  Help us, Your children to seek to know You better so we can be more like Jesus on a daily basis!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Secured Ascension

"If Easter Sunday was the most exciting day of the disciples' lives, for Jesus it was probably the day of Ascension.  He the Creator, who had descended so far and given up so much, was now heading home.  Like a soldier returning across the ocean from a long and bloody war...Home at last." (from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I never knew)
Every year as I read the story of Jesus' birth, something new hits me in the stomach like a fist, making me want to cry out in shame that I am to blame for His having to come in the first place.
I remember several years ago sitting and thinking about God belittling Himself to become a mere human being in the form of a helpless infant no less, needing human care of cleaning, carrying and feeding Him.  I thought on how humiliating it must have been as Creator making Himself become needy on my behalf.  As I sat there, a new thought plowed through my mind and emotions.  "Imagine how innocent a newborn is; not knowing sin, nor even wanting to know it, fulling trusting the one caring for it to give the little one what is very best so that it is nurtured and becomes the best adult possible.  Then imagine the horror felt if EVERY sin that ever has or will be dreamed of is cast on him."  In my mind's eye I saw a tortured infant's big trusting eyes looking at me with tears and I realized that I was the torturer!  Needless to say, I cried gut wrenching tears. 
Another time I came to learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because Bethlehem is where the lambs for sacrifice were born and cared for until the time for their death.  I knew then that Jesus had to be born there, because He is our sacrificial lamb. 
Each year brings different eye openers for me.  The shepherds were the first told, because they were looked down on, but would come to represent leaders of God's sacrificial flock.
The wisemen came to worship and recognized that true wisdom only comes from God and so honored Him with gifts fit for a king. 
Once again I could go on and on, but this year, as I read the words by Philip Yancey, it hit me that God not only came as an innocent infant, He came into a war zone.  He was born right in the middle of a great power struggle, not only of Roman over Israelite, but Israelite over Israelite.  The Romans had the Jewish nation of Israel under their authority, but early on the Jewish leaders realized that if they "got in good" with the Roman authorities, they would be given power as well.  Herod was one of these.  Jesus came right in the middle of it all to show the world that love and trust are the only real answers; trusting Him and allowing His love to flow through us to others.
I don't know how well we've learned the lesson.  Everywhere I look I see wars raging.  In homes there is spousal and child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, division through divorce and family services having to remove children from homes for their safety.  In the cities there are burning buildings, robberies and murder going on in the name of bigotry.  Then of course there is country vying against country for power and land.  Yes, everywhere there is still war.  Even in the church there is petty disagreements that cause such disruption that war between members breaks out at times.  The problem is we still tend to think we are in battle with people.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Eph. 6:12 KJVI think we find it much easier to do battle with someone with which we can use our physical senses.  However, that is like chopping down the dandelion and allowing the root to remain.  It's gonna keep coming back for more!! 
So yes, I agree with Philip Yancey.  The Ascension day was most probably the day that brought Jesus the greatest joy - going HOME!!  He had fought the battle and won the war!!  If we could just keep remembering that!!
The other day my husband and I were having a relaxing Saturday afternoon when suddenly the was a loud explosion and our house began to shake.  It lasted mere seconds, but I knew it was an earthquake.  It turned out to be 2.5 on the richter scale, a minor quake.  I chuckled, because it only served to prove what a false sense of security we cling to. 
Don't get me wrong.  I am secure.  I am secure in knowing that if I live, I win - I get to remain with my loved ones here and continue finding ways to serve Jesus, but if I die, I win - I get to be with my loved ones already in heaven and even better - with Jesus - the One Who was born, gave His life through death on a cross and rose again all so that I might learn how to live under His protection in the midst of surrounding spiritual battles now and then in complete peace and harmony when I leave here to go to my real home with Him forever!!  The war is over.  The victory has been won!  My ascension day secured!

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Phil. 3:20 NLT