A Father and a Son

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. – Ecclesiastes 11:6

Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecclesiastes 11; Titus 3

We never know what might become of our small acts of kindness. By sharing our love, each of us play a part in the restoration of God’s kingdom. The coolest part, is God does most of the work. When we submit to God’s will, we are more able to be used — and as we are used, we are transformed in the cycle of spiritual rebirth.

One morning when I was six, my dad woke me while it was still dark and we drove to the Boynton Beach Pier. I was half a sleep and filled with wonder about this strange new pre-dawn world and with the joy from being alone with my father. Just the two of us, on our own adventure, walking hand in hand out onto the old pier. Together we wandered into the coolness of the early morning, before the sun rose up out of the ocean.

At the end of the pier, my father crouched down, looked into my eyes and asked, “do you want some hot chocolate?”

“Yes!” I said.

The chill of the morning had penetrated my skinny frame, and as I sipped hot chocolate with my father, I felt the warmth that comes from security, and sugar.

After dropping my fishing line over the side rail I looked down and saw fish of all sizes swimming in the bluish green water, circling in and out of the range of our bait. Eventually I got one on the hook. As I reeled it in, I looked up at my father’s warm peaceful smile. “That’s a red snapper Ricky, you caught a red snapper!” The world was a good place then.

My dad built a boat in our garage that year. We worked on it together when we had the time. Often after dinner, before I went to bed, me in my pajamas and him in his Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. Occasionally I would hand him a tool or remove a scrap of wood, making me feel as if we had built it together. I knew that one day we would ride in the boat with my brothers out to the sea, through the treacherous currants of Boynton Inlet that had swamped bigger boats and better captains.

Working with my dad was an absolute joy; I was an important part of something big, just not in the way I had thought. Since then I have come to realize helping my father build a boat was like helping God grow His kingdom. God, in His love for me, and in His infinite wisdom, includes me in His work when I am willing. The amazing thing is this: when I surrender my selfish ambitions to the will of God, He does his best work in me.

It has been said, through the relationship with our fathers we first begin to understand God. And while I believe that God can reveal himself through anyone, it is those closest to us that often have the greatest impact. I know not everyone has, or has had, a positive relationship with their father, and like mine, this relationship can be cut short through divorce and death. Even so, it is by acts of love and compassion between people, that God reveals Himself.

Each of us has the power to show God’s love. And when we do, we are helping to share the Gospel, to lift each other up and grow God’s kingdom. Sharing God’s love is one way we can find joy and hope in His will.

God please enable me to share your love with my children and everyone I have contact with. Amen.

There’s one in every bunch

just like the old saying... it takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. while the rest of the apples are as they should be, red and ripening, one lazy apple sits and spoils, threatening the rest. conceptual image with a variety of uses.


Leviticus 27; Psalm 34; Ecclesiastes 10; Titus 2

Have you ever had a friend whose presence seemed to have a bad influence on almost every situation? Reflecting over my childhood years, a few of these people come to mind.  I was generally a pretty good kid, but when one of these friends was around, things always seemed to go downhill.  My parents knew who these “bad seeds” or “ring leaders” were.  I knew it too, I was just never willing to concede.  Admitting my folks were right may have propelled me to make a different choice, which may have led me to miss out on the fun.  No thanks.

Now that I’m old, and have kids of my own (I have one who suffers from a severe case of FoMO – the Fear of Missing Out), the wisdom found in 1 Corinthians 15:33 means more to me than ever, Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.    Funny thing is, this truth applies no matter how old we are.  It also goes both ways.  While one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, one good, influential person can also raise everyone else’s game.  We see these truths illustrated in the first four verses of Ecclesiastes 10 today.

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.  A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.  Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.  If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.

Verse 1 is about the bad apple. In contrast, verse 4 gives us a picture of the person who doesn’t get pulled into the fray, rather they stand their ground and help to diffuse a bad situation.  That would have been a really good argument to use with my parents back in the day.  “Mom, I actually need to be there.  Who else is going to stand their ground and influence the group to make good choices?  See, it is my duty to help save them from themselves.”  Truth is, back then I wasn’t quick enough to think of that argument nor did I always want the responsibility of trying to influence good choices.  I was usually busy just trying to fit in and have some fun.

Jump forward to today’s passage in Titus 2. Do you see a similar theme?  The first ten verses of Titus 2 are all about teaching biblical truths and modeling god-honoring, upright behavior in order to influence others.  Titus 2:7-8, Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Mike Baker, Senior Pastor at Eastview, often reminds us – your greatest witness is the life you lead.

Think about this today. Are you being influenced by the company you keep OR are you using your relationships to influence others and bring them closer to Jesus?  Are you along for the ride to get maximum enjoyment from life OR are you intentionally using your circumstances to be salt and light to this world?  Jesus calls us to the latter.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

National Day of Prayer

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people whom he has chosen as his heritage! (Psalm 33:12)

Leviticus 26; Psalm 33; Ecclesiastes 9; Titus 1

The people of the United States of America are incredibly blessed to have religious freedom, and as far as our government is concerned we are free to worship as we choose.

This freedom as well as an acknowledgement of God goes back to the foundation of our great country. The Declaration of Independence refers to a Creator. Note the uppercase “C” represents a proper noun; there is no doubt that this is referring to God Almighty, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. This document makes its appeal to the “Supreme Judge” of the world; again reflecting the belief in one being, the ultimate and just judge. The United States of America was founded by people and principles acknowledging God and His laws as authoritative.

Psalm 33:12 refers to nations being blessed when their God is the Lord, which I think is a great verse to reference on the National Day of Prayer.

The mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to mobilize prayer in America and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.

Would you join me in prayer through portions of Psalm 33 in observance of The National Day of Prayer?

God we sometimes act like we do not fear you; instead we should be in awe!

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

God, your word created this earth and its inhabitants. For this you deserve our praise.

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Our plans are nothing without you God.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.

Your wisdom Lord lasts forever, ours is temporary. Lead us God with your wisdom.

11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

We invite you into our lives and we ask you to become our God, the God of our families and this nation. God show us the way to put you back on the throne of our lives and of this country.

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

We recognize God that no matter how hard we try, no matter whom we elect, no matter how strong our army is, only you can save us. You are our strength.

16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Father God, we recognize that our nation is struggling in many ways, especially in this election year. There is dissension among the people of this country, in part because we have strayed away from honoring you as our God. Without you we would have nothing. We thank you for the truths and principles that this country was founded upon. We thank you for the many men and women who have served this country in various forms to defend our freedom and values in a way that honor you. We ask today a special blessing on the 2016 National Day of Prayer and on those who are leading and organizing it. Would you miraculously intervene through this day of prayer and touch the lives of millions of people? We ask that millions of Americans “wake up” to your call. Thank you God, you are so good. Amen!

Itching Ears

indian male touching is paining ear, indian man stressed with paining ear

Leviticus 25; Psalm 32; Ecclesiastes 8; 2 Timothy 4

Man holds an unquenchable hunger and thirst for knowledge . Not just knowledge, but wisdom. My own pursuit of these is generally framed around fixing something in my life. The purveyors of answers make promises of living a big life. In fact, it’s not just about living a big life, but doing so while maintaining balance. You actually can have a huge career, the body you deserve and a healthy family. You can have it all. Do you want to hear more?

I listened to a similar pitch just this morning. Apparently, all I have to do is agree to work really, really hard, being 100% sold out and committed to achieving my goal. When I do this and send him $5,000.00, I will be introduced to the simple secret that has eluded me, and apparently millions of others, since the beginning of time. Despite the high cost, it is a compelling message. Not just to me either.  He interviewed a recent graduate of the course. Guess what? The course paid off 10 fold and the man’s marriage was saved from the brink of disaster. All because of these few secrets that have never been revealed. Do you want to know more?

The answer is YES, I WANT TO KNOW! Please, tell me now how I can live this ridiculously awesome life. I am ready!

This is exactly what 2 Timothy 4:3 predicts. The writer knows that my propensity is to seek answers that suit my own desires.  I have “itching ears.” The evidence is overwhelming. I can sit through hours of podcasts and study page after page of business strategy to potentially satisfy my own compulsions. More recently, I have devoured books on psychological theory explaining how the human mind interprets information. It is fascinating. I absorb all of this information to make some sense of my life. Of course, all of these things have failed me. My newly acquired wisdom and knowledge have not silenced the voices of negativity and doubt between my ears.  I remain insecure in my ability and my marriage is less than I think it can be.

Despite my efforts, God has protected me from deception. As I reflect upon my study habits, He reveals that I attempt to learn more about getting rich than being rich. There is a huge difference! The biggest one is surrender. You see, finding something that will tickle my brain is easy. It doesn’t require confronting my weaknesses and it energizes my spirit.  Filling me with possibility. The other way, the Jesus way, is hard. It requires that I give up my own dreams while I embrace my weaknesses.  The Jesus way requires complete transformation of my spirit. To be harsh, it requires death. Ironically, it is in death, that I find life. Jesus tells us right. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Real Truth.

Walking in the Way

Today’s reading: Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

April 20th, 2016

We feel very fortunate to live near the Constitution Trail in Normal, IL. We endeavor to use it as a spiritual tool for our family. As we walk along the path we reflect on the thoughts, words and deeds of the day and measure them against God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 comes to life for our family as we walk along the way.

walk in the path

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16–17

Setting out with doctrine. As we look ahead we can see the path and where it leads. We equate this to doctrine. God’s word lights our way and allows us to see into the distance. (Genesis 1:3, Psalms 119:130, Proverbs 6:23, Proverbs 4:2, Isaiah 28:9)

Stepping off with reproof. As we look down at our feet and notice they are off the path we Praise God for reproof. God’s word is light and it exposes our missteps. (Psalms 119:105, John 8:12, Ecclesiastes 2:13, Ephesians 5:15, John 3:19-20)

Setting back with correction. As we seek out the path again we trust God to correct us with a straight path back. His rod it comforts us. God’s word brings us right home. (Deuteronomy 32:2, Psalms 5:8, Psalms 107:7)

Staying on with instruction. As we find ourselves back on the path we praise God for His gentleness, grace and tender mercy. We have been instructed on the application of God’s doctrine to our specific experiences. God’s word strengthens us to do His good work. (Isaiah 29:24, Job 5:19, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:7, 2 John 9)

May we all walk in the way and do the good work God has purchased us for. Amen.

Good Soldiers, Athletes, Farmers

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

One significant and meaningful spiritual transformation occurred last year during a time when I was blessed to go through, A Little Manual for Servant Leaders by J.K. Jones & Jim Probst.  J.K, Jim, and six other brothers in Christ, John, Josh, Chad, Eric, Shawn, and Scott, along with myself, shared eleven weeks together studying scripture and testimonies on servant leadership.  This is definitely a great manual that provides all servant leaders, like you and I, with bible based tools to continue to “fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.”  Thank you God for divine appointments to be among wonderful people who share their knowledge of You and help others build an eternal relationship.

Today when I read 2 Timothy 2 I was reminded of this chapter we discussed in the Servant Leaders Manual.  After reading the following verses I was asked what metaphor would you most relate to the soldier, athlete, or farmer.  Which one would you pick? Are you all of them?

2 Timothy 2: 3-6 says, 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

The good soldier modeled a disciplined life. The Greek word for “good” is kalos which means noble or excellent. A disciplined life involves training all the time in order to always be battle ready.  This includes making sacrifices and showing courage, commitment, and willingness to discipline yourself.  Jesus followers give up worldly security to focus on our God that enlisted us. Ephesians 6:10-18 provides us with the whole armor of God to protect us in the battle.

The honest athlete trains hard and follows the rules to the game.  This training will help you to compete in the race and includes no short-cuts or cheating.   1 Corinthians 9:24-27 affirms that athletes needs to exercise self-control in all things and must discipline their body. 1 Timothy 4:7 says to train in Godliness.

The hard-working farmer works tirelessly all day long, with no glamour or crowds, and in hopes of a bountiful harvest.  The farmer receives a share of his own crops after spending much time preparing for the harvest. 1 Corinthians 9:7 talks about person who plants a vineyard and eats some of the fruit. There is also the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:5-8.  Likewise, the Christian life and sharing His word requires a lot of hard work and patience. We face adversities during every season, but if we remain consistent in our own faith and steadfast in our sharing with others, we will reap a bountiful spiritual harvest.

Does one person connect with you more?  No matter the metaphor we keep fighting for victory, focus on victories, and patiently toiling for a bountiful harvest.

What does a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer all have in common? They are all occupations that require perseverance! Soldiers, athletes, and farmers all face adversities which require tremendous patience and steadfast endurance to achieve their respective goals, whether it is prevailing in battle, winning a competition, or reaping a bountiful harvest. All of our hard work will be worth it when we realize it is to glorify our God.  When we share this love with others and spend eternity with Him. What kind of soldier, athlete, or farmer will you be?

Are you enduring in your faith right now? Are you enduring with Christ in the midst of your current adversities and sufferings? Remember it’s not if we face trials its when. Are we willing to suffer in our efforts to please the Lord? Are we willing to discipline ourselves to receive an imperishable crown? Are we willing to work diligently that we might benefit from our first fruits of our labors?

Dear God,

Please provide us with the endurance we need to persevere through the adversities we face. You alone are what we need to recognize your blessing through it all. We thank you for providing us with a focus and ambition to look to you and make you the center of our hearts and lives.  God help us always to think over what you say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:7.

Dead Weight

stretcher gurney for patient in hospital (blur background and wooden table for displaying your product)

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28-29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

I was really looking forward to sharing this new book of the Bible I found called Ecclesiastes. Well, it was new to me anyway. I’ve been working for a few days in a row at the hospital. Now that I’m sitting down to write and catching up on my reading I see that this short book has been the subject of a few reflections this week. I’ve been drawing out a little “blueprint” of Ecclesiastes all week. Of course, we already know that it was written by King David’s son, Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It seems to me that nearly nothing could be the same then as it is now. But, with a closer look, there are 5 key themes that are very relatable.

  • Searching
    • Without God there will be no true pleasure or happiness, searching for wisdom, knowledge or joy is futile outside of Him.
  • Emptiness
    • Fill your life with God. The cure for emptiness is Him.
  • Work
    • God gives you the ability and opportunity to work so that you can use your time to glorify Him.
  • Death
    • God gives us hope that goes beyond death
  • Wisdom
    • We must get to know God and honor him in order to have wisdom

See NIV, ESV and HCSB study bibles for more on these themes, I did NOT come up with them myself

When you place Solomon’s words in those 5 categories, it brings us back to what I think is the most important theme: without God life is empty. I spent the weekend thinking that the lessons presented to us in Ecclesiastes are darker and more serious than Proverbs. Tonight as I sit and reflect on how to really bring them alive in my life, I realized that God had given me an example through death.

My Saturday started in the basement of the hospital. I’m a physical therapist there and I cover a weekend or two a month. I had my clipboard in hand with a long list of patients to be seen for the day. As I punched the up button on the elevator, a security guard rolled up with a metal gurney. A few years of experience told me that she was on a transport mission. A patient had died, the family had come and gone and now it was time for the body to be moved. We rode up together with few words passing between us. We exited on the same floor and I went about my business checking charts. Next to me the security guard was focused on her task, checking boxes on a list and packing personal items into a box. It’s important to take care of sensitive matters at the hospital before visiting hours begin. I asked the guard which room she was going to, so that I could avoid bringing patients into that hallway. Before she could answer, a nurse turned and said, “We could really use some help lifting the patient, it’s kinda like dead weight.”

A life. Transformed in an instant from a vibrant presence to dead weight. For the record, this nurse is a patient, compassionate and kind person. This ill-timed pun wasn’t meant to diminish the life lost. It did get me thinking though about my own dead weight on this earth. The HCSB Study Bible opens the book of Ecclesiastes with this introduction:

“The Bible is never shy about confronting painful truths or hard questions. The book of Ecclesiastes faces the issue of how we can find meaning on life in light of the seemingly futile nature of everything. It will not allow the reader to retreat into superficial answers. It does not answer the problem by comforting us with hollow slogans. To the contrary, its motto is “Everything Is Futile.” But by forcing us to face the futility of human existence, it guides us to a life free of empty purpose and deceitful vindication.”

I got to thinking about the patient that I didn’t know. He or she did not take wealth or poverty with them. The struggles he or she faced in illness and death are now gone. I wonder, was it a life well lived? What truly held weight at the end and what simply didn’t matter anymore? My favorite verse in today’s scripture is this:

“For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

 Am I so full of words, and dreams and aspirations that there is no room left for obedience to God? The foundation of this teaching is our eventual mortality. We can try and try to impress God with our gifts and promises but in the end we cannot deceive Him. He calls us to be humble and obedient. He is asking us to depend on him and his grace. Without Him, life is meaningless. Back in the hospital room as the clean white sheet was drawn up and the wheels began to turn toward the door, I saw an end as well as a beginning. I asked God to lead me into fulfillment in Him. I asked for more reminders to broaden my vision from the context of today into his plan of eternity. As I heard the elevator ding and the heavy doors slide open, I realized that there is no timeline. There is no promise of tomorrow, only the promise of right now. Lord, help us to seize this moment, this Monday, this week. Help us to delight in you here until we are there…

Chasing the Wind

Leviticus 21; Psalms 26–27; Ecclesiastes 4; 1 Timothy 6

And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. -Ecclesiastes 4:4

Eccleiastes has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. King Solomon, the author (and son of King David) was considered to be one of the wisest and richest men who ever lived. He knew very well what he was writing about. I on the other hand am neither wise or wealthy, but I have been familiar with both through most of my life.

Please forgive me if this sounds boastful, but in my extended family I have seen or been made aware of fortunes that have come and gone. At times I have experienced the effects of both the windfalls and fallout from wealth; witnessing pride from accomplishments of innovation and industry.

Not surprisingly a sense entitlement had grown through the generations, it moved past sustaining yesterday’s achievements to the decadence of wealth without work. Like the withering vine of yesterday’s will to create enterprise, the generations grew into a future where they placed more value upon the worldly gains that had come before, than on the faith of the past. One by one they fell into despair and confusion. Their trust funds couldn’t save them from the emptiness that crept into their souls.

Despite the growing darkness, there was always a flickering light of truth in the distance. The family’s acts of philanthropy had brought hope and opportunity to the underprivileged and outcasts, and inspiration to the generations. Schools, colleges, centers and clubs were funded along with research to enhance life through science and service. In their acts of kindness and sacrifices of time and treasure, the light grew stronger.

I have witnessed the powerful reach of wealth beyond the grave, trying to control the destiny of future generations. Personally I was invited to live a life devoted to the power of self and the wisdom of the world, but I have also seen the power of a different legacy in the lives of those who pursued the true light of the world — Jesus Christ. Their lives reflected the light of personal transformation, one that was only possible in the surrender to the will of God. This offered a different life and a legacy for future generations.

Everyone I have known, including myself who have chased after the wind, to the best of my knowledge, have never found what they were looking for, only vanity.

Life’s Journey

Concept of time with funny businessman running in a hurry

Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5

Did you know Apple released the first iPhone on June 29, 2007? Over the last two quarters of that year, about 1.4 million iPhones (units not dollars) were sold.  By the end of 2015, only 8.5 years later, Apple had annual iPhone unit sales of more than 230 million.  Isn’t it absolutely crazy to think sales went from 0 to 230 million, and the iPhone went from a luxury to a mainstream device, in less than a decade?  Ten years ago, would you have ever dreamt you would be carrying ONE device that provides access to a wealth of information, can take and store pictures, can translate your speech into text messages, can track your heart rate, can pay for your groceries, and so much more…in your pocket?

This storyline isn’t unique to the 21st century.  Between 1908 and 1927, the development and adoption of Ford’s Model T car illustrated the same point – this world changes at a rapid pace.  It can, at times, be a little overwhelming.  (Just ask those connected to Kodak and Blockbuster, two great companies who couldn’t change fast enough to stay in business.)

I contrast the story of frenzied technological change, which we experience every day, to the words of truth recorded in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This passage naturally stirs my heart. Maybe because I hear it most often at funerals.  Read it aloud, do you feel a sense of calm and comfort?  The rhythm, “a time to… and a time to… a time to… and a time to…” is soothing as Solomon takes the reader on a poetic journey through a range of life’s activities.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The sense of comfort, however, comes from something more impactful than poetic patterns or meters. It comes from the foundational truth that God is sovereign, meaning he has supreme power or authority.  Solomon begins chapter 3 by reminding us that there is a season or time for EVERYTHING.  Notice verses 2-8 don’t just list good things.  They talk about death, weeping, mourning and hatred as well as life, laughing, dancing and love.  All these things, both good and bad, exist in this world.  God uses his supreme power and authority to work ALL of them together to accomplish his purpose.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has made everything beautiful in its time.

The first verse and chorus of Colton Dixon’s song Through All of It provide a comforting reminder that He is our God through all life’s seasons, both good and bad.

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give.  And there are choices that I made, that I wouldn’t make again.  I’ve had my share of laughter, of tears and troubled times.  This is has been the story of my life.

I have won, and I have lost.  I got it right sometimes, but sometimes I did not. Life’s been a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret.  Oh and You have been my God through all of it.


Training Plan

Leviticus 19; Psalms 23–24; Ecclesiastes 2; 1 Timothy 4

Last Wednesday around 3:30 AM I was lying in bed wide awake. The alarm was set for 4:30 AM and I wanted to go back to sleep, but thoughts of the new day were creeping in. The thoughts started with my excitement for that day’s workout; first a spin class (indoor cycling as part of a classroom format) then Tabata (high intensity interval training), then finish with 10-15 minutes of deep, intensive stretching. While this for some might sound like pure torture, for me it has become exhilarating and extremely rewarding to push my body to its limits – I love it! I hadn’t had an intense workout in four days and was really missing it; my body was rested and ready to go.

Except it wasn’t time to go yet, so I started praying. Since I was thinking about exercise, I started by thanking God for making the human body with purpose. I was thanking him for giving me the strength to exercise, for the joy that it brings to me, for what the human body is capable of, and for the health benefits that come with exercise.

My medical understanding of exercise is that it benefits us in many ways such as controlling blood pressure, helps keep cholesterol at proper levels, strengthens the heart, and helps us maintain a healthy weight (and much more). From my own experience, when I think of exercise I enjoy “sweating out my problems”, where I’ll go for a long run and really process a situation; it helps me think positive and oftentimes brings clarity through the fog. I also love the after-effects of exercise; increased energy, the feeling of accomplishment, and the post-workout shower is a great reward.

There is a problem though. Exercise involves physically training a human body, and human bodies are not built to last forever. Physical training is a temporary investment in something that will eventually fail and die. Just like Ecclesiastes 2 where we read about the futility or vanity of pleasure, work, or even living wisely; while enjoyment of these things is a blessing from God, they all will fade in this life.

There is a solution to this problem. It is called Godly training. Godly training is a spiritual investment in something that will last for an eternity.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Godliness is of value in every way. What a great promise! I’m reflecting on the post God Speaking to Us where David LaFrance mentioned that Godly training has strengthened his soul and state of mind. He also uses words like revived and restored, and shared that God’s word breathes “new life” into him.

Training in Godliness trains us how we should live so that we can live abundantly. Today’s scripture reading has numerous, valuable training instructions as an explanation of the ten commandments including:

  • Revere (honor) your mother and father and observe God’s Sabbaths (days of rest). Leviticus 19:3
  • Do not turn to idols; Leviticus 19:3.
  • Give to the poor; Leviticus 19:10
  • Don’t steal, don’t lie; Leviticus 19:11
  • Don’t swear falsely using God’s name. Leviticus 19:12
  • Don’t oppress or rob your neighbor. Leviticus 19:13
  • Treat people with disabilities fairly. Leviticus 19:14
  • Judge in righteousness; not out of partiality. Leviticus 19:15
  • Don’t gossip. Stick up for your neighbor. Leviticus 19:16
  • Don’t hate. Leviticus 19:17
  • Love your neighbor. Leviticus 19:18

Spending time thinking through that list reminds me of much room for improvement and some necessary repentance. How about you?

God, thank you for the instruction you give through your word as it guides us, corrects us, and points us toward you. Thank you for allowing us to experience pleasure and joy here on Earth. May we experience these gifts in a way that honors you. Please show us where we may be idolizing earthly pleasures and experiences so that we may put you in the rightful place in our lives as our first and foremost. We recognize this life on Earth is temporary, but your kingdom is forever; thank you for the grace and mercy that we receive through your son Jesus Christ. Amen.