Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Turn Your Head And Cough | Stewardship Of Our Physical Bodies

I Finally Got A Physical Exam

"Turn your head and cough." "OK, now, stand pigeon-toed and rest your forearms on the table." Every guy that hears these words from a doctor dreads them. I'm sure the lady readers of this blog have their own set of doctor directions that you despise as well!

I'll be honest with you. I have been somewhat negligent with my health. I haven't always taken the best care of my body that I probably should have or could have. Thankfully, up to this point and time in my life, I haven't had any major health scares or problems. I have been blessed with healthy genes and only the occasional cold or flu bug once or twice a year.

Because I've been relatively healthy over the years (praise God), I have failed to do the "routine maintenance" on my body that I should have been doing. I have to embarrassingly say that it's easily been a least 20 years since I have been to the doctor for a routine physical exam. Sure, I've gone to clinics to get medication for flu bugs and sinus infections; or I've gotten physical exams for insurance purposes, but it's easily been a couple of decades since I had a solid, comprehensive exam. How crazy is that? Probably more like, how dumb am I?

Because of recent changes in my life (mainly the fact that I'm now over 40!), I felt that it was time to get off my backside and stop neglecting this important area. So, I finally scheduled a routine physical exam and went to see the doctor a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, my doctor said that I'm a boring patient and he saw no evidence of any health concerns up to this point. I'm so grateful that my stupidity and neglect hasn't caught up with me after twenty years!

What Does The Bible Say?

Here's a verse that I recently ran across in 3 John 1:2, which states:
Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually.
In the opening of John's third epistle, we see his concern for the health of his friend Gaius. John had been praying for prosperity in life, and good physical health that matched up with his spiritual health. Interesting verse. Almost sounds a little health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, doesn't it?

In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, we read the following from the Apostle Paul to Timothy:
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
In these verses, Paul stresses the importance of spiritual training over physical training. But, he still states that there is SOME value to physical training.

Mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. These key areas are what make us uniquely human. As Christians, growth in the spiritual area should be our primary emphasis, but we're going to have difficulty focusing on that spiritual growth if we're physically sick all the time or struggling with mental and emotional problems. We need to strive to be healthy in all these areas.

Going Forward

My boss at church often makes the statement that the Lord knows when it will be our unique time to depart this earth for heaven, but we can actually "go before our time" through neglecting our physical health. While as a Christian, I often feel the pull toward my eternal destination over the problems of this mortal life, I don't want to depart this life for the next earlier than God's timetable just because I've been sloppy with my health. I want to see my children grow up, get married, and have children of their own. If God blesses me with an extraordinary long life, then maybe I will even live long enough to see great-grandchildren!

More importantly, though, I want to stay physically fit and active for the purpose of fulfilling God's Kingdom purposes for me here on earth. Plus, I want to have the physical energy that it's going to take to fulfill His mission for me. As a result of these recent stewardship revelations, I'm working out 3-4 times a week. I'm taking supplements to support a healthier body. Finally, I'm going to do the regular doctor check-ups in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle that pleases the Lord. He's only giving me one life and one body. He's expecting me to be an extraordinary manager of what He's blessed me with.

How about you? Have you been neglecting your health like I had been? Do you need to make some major life changes in order to get back on track toward a healthier lifestyle? I would encourage you to begin taking some "baby steps" toward getting healthier. This could be anything such as working out for 10 minutes a couple of days a week, eating healthier foods, or scheduling a physical exam. Don't get overwhelmed and paralyzed by trying to do a bunch of things to get healthier all at once. Build brick by brick, one healthy habit, one healthy decision at a time, until you reach your desired destination.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Cure For Anxiety

Photo by Thomas Milne
Worried Sick

Have you ever struggled with anxiety? Like really ever made yourself sick over being worried? I can remember when I was in junior high and senior high school, I used to make myself sick being worried about everything! I was worried about getting papers written on time. I was worried about getting 100% A's on my tests. I was worried about having enough time in my day to practice trumpet. I was worried if I was going to be the valedictorian of my senior class. I was worried about the next music competition I was playing in or the next orchestra concert I had coming up.

Man, I was worried about a lot of stuff back when I was a punk teenager. I used to get really bad stomach aches too as a result of being worried so much. My mom was constantly trying different home remedies, over the counter meds, and so on in order to help alleviate my symptoms. What I really needed to do, though, is stop worrying in the first place!

We Live In A Culture Of Worry

I know I'm not the only one in this world that deals with worry, though. In general, we as a society worry too much. We worry about our spouses. We worry about our kids. We worry about our parents, brothers, sisters, and their families. We worry about if we can pay the bills on time. We worry if we’re going to lose our job in the near future. We worry if the American economy is ever going to really recover from this challenging downturn in which we currently find ourselves.

If there was ever a time in recent history when we need a word from the Lord, then that time is now. It seems that everywhere we turn, people are really struggling in their present circumstances. They are struggling with money problems in a bad economy. They are struggling with health problems. Their family is in crisis.

The Cure According To Jesus

Jesus knows that we all have worries, concerns, and anxiety about certain problems in this life. He believed this was an important enough issue for Him to spend some time talking about it with His disciples in these verses. In 
Luke 12:22-34, Jesus gives us some strategies to deal with anxiety. Here is His cure for the disease of worry:

  1. He tells us not to worry about our life. Life is more than just food, clothing, and financial resources (12:22-23). 
  2. God takes care of the needs of those He loves (12:24-30). 
  3. Be more concerned about the advancement of God’s Kingdom above all else. As a result, God will provide what you need (12:31-32). 
  4. Be willing to part with your stuff in order to advance God’s Kingdom. Jesus reminds us in these verses that our heart follows where our treasures go (12:33-34). 
Turn Your Worry Over To The Lord

So, what are you concerned about, today? Have you turned that concern over to the Lord? Are you more concerned with the advancement of God’s Kingdom then your own personal needs or problems?

If you’re going to be worried about anything, then worry about the expansion of God’s Kingdom. In the meantime, He’ll take care of your needs.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's All or Nothing

Photo by Peewubblewoo
Are You In Or Out?

I'm sure you've probably heard this story before from a history class. In 1519, Spanish conquistedor Hernando Cort├ęs, in the beginning stages of his conquest of the Aztec Empire, ordered that all of his expedition's ships be burned. The reason for this insane scuttling of his fleet - to insure that there was no escape plan. They were going to either be victorious in battle or killed in the process. There was no way to cut and run if the situation got bad.

You know, today we live in a culture that wants to be "half in" a whole bunch of stuff. We see it in marriages, families, corporations, schools, the community, and churches. People want to have one foot in and one foot out in case things don't go according to plan. Then, they can quickly and easily slide out of any commitment situation. I know I've done it, and I'm sure you have too.

Being fully and completely devoted to anything is challenging. When you come to the point in your marriage, family, your career, your calling, your education, and your church when you've "burned the ships" so to speak, and you're fully invested in whatever you have been called to do, there is a strange kind of freedom in being "all in."

Give Me Everything

In Matthew 19:16-30, we read the story about a rich young ruler that approached Jesus regarding the important question about how he could receive eternal life. After a discussion of obeying the Ten Commandments, Jesus told the young man that he needed to give all of his wealth to the poor and then come follow Him. Unfortunately, this young man couldn't handle the thought of giving all of his wealth to the poor. The Bible says that he just sadly walked away because he owned a lot of stuff.

Have you ever read this story about the rich young ruler, scratched your head, and wondered why this guy didn’t listen and do what Jesus asked him to do and then follow Him? Here we are 2,000 years further along in history, and we Christians in the 21st century may find it easy to pass judgment on this rich, young leader from the 1st century. We’re up in our Christian ivory tower thinking we’re so much more spiritually mature than this rich guy. Hey, we’re giving, we’re sacrificing, we’re putting in the time, and we’re using our talents for God and His church.

I have a convicting thought for all of us to consider today. Could it be, perhaps, that we Christian believers in the American Church are exactly like the rich young ruler of the gospels? We live in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. We not only have the majority of our basic needs meet (such as food, shelter, clothing, and transportation), but some of us can also get caught up in the pursuit of “luxury” desires too.

According to everything we read in the New Testament, the call to follow Christ is not an easy one. Yet, we in the American Church have created an “Easy Button” type of faith culture that says such things as: “hey, don’t really feel like coming to church this Sunday, then maybe you can catch the webcast if you sorta kinda feel like it.” Or ,“only gotta few bucks left over from an expensive holiday spending spree? Then maybe you could give your leftovers to the church to help out in ministry.” Or, “don’t feel like talking to your friends about Jesus? Well, just try to get them to a church service, and we’ll witness to them.” Unfortunately, I think that we as church leaders have failed those we shepherd, because we have attempted to make a life of following Christ easier than it really is. Being a disciple of Christ is not going to be an easy journey this side of eternity.

What Have You Been Called To Give Up?

Jesus never gave people easy options when it came to following Him. It was an all or nothing kind of devotion to be His disciple. For the rich young ruler, Jesus knew this guy had a love for money and stuff, so He called this guy out on the true “god” in his life. Jesus asked him to give all of his possessions to the poor, and then to come and follow Him. The sad part is that this rich guy couldn’t do it. He couldn’t part with his stuff in order to be Jesus’ disciple. And now, 2,000 years later, are we in the universal American Church that much different than this rich young ruler?

If you were to stand face-to-face with Jesus today, what would He ask you to give up in order to follow Him with your complete and undivided devotion? And then, here’s an even bigger question to ponder, today: are you actually willing to do what He is asking you to do in order to follow Him with your whole heart?

Also, check out these related posts: 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Extravagant Receiving Through Extravagant Giving

Photo source:
One Sided Giving?

Have you seen the billboard or maybe the YouTube videos that contain Dick and Rick Hoyt's inspirational story? This is the story of a father and son team where the son is severely handicapped and the father pushes his son's wheelchair in marathon races.

From an outsider's perspective, this relationship seems extremely one-sided, don't you think? The dad has to put in all the work to run with his son on these marathons. The father admits though that his son has given back to him, even though it may appear that Rick isn't really doing much of anything but sit in his special wheelchair. I would definitely call Dick Hoyt an extravagant giver. He has given to his son the amazing, seemingly one-sided gift of time, energy, and financial resources in order to run these races together.

Extravagant Giving And Receiving

Jesus talked about this radical idea of extravagant giving and receiving in Luke 6:38,
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Extravagant givers are extravagant receivers. Intellectually, I think most people understand this principle. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, boy, here we go, again. Larry’s getting on his stewardship soapbox to talk about giving money once again.”

I could possibly go in that direction with this verse, but let’s lay aside the “money thing” for a moment, and use a different example. Let’s talk about the giving of our personal time to others. When we invest our time into other people, we’re really investing our lives into others. Our time equals our life. Our lives are measured in time and energy.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but I’ve found that as I invest my life into other people, I begin to get more life back as a result. My life feels richer; my life feels fuller because I have chosen to give myself to others instead of using my time to pursue my own selfish pursuits. I would highly suspect that this is how Dick Hoyt feels when he gives back to his son through time and energy.

When I get this turned around in my life, when I’m being more selfish with my time, then my life feels more “hollow” and less fulfilling.

You Get Out What You Put In

This is true with anything and everything in our lives. When we give more of our time, energy, resources, or money, we aren’t in a “zero sum” or “negative” situation. We actually receive a return on our investment. And, no, it’s not always going to be an exact match on the receiving end what went out the giving end like your employer’s 401(k) plan. But, there are really rich, incredible returns for giving yourself and your stuff away for God’s purposes.

I believe that’s the point Jesus was trying to get across in this verse. When you put more into an experience, then you will get more out of that experience. “For the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

So, how big is your measuring cup in the areas of time, energy, resources, and money? Are you filling up a big cup, and then pouring out that cup generously? Or, are you being stingy with what God has loaned to you in the first place? The more generously we will give in these areas, the more we will receive back. This verse states that our measuring cup is going to be “running over” as result!

Today, I would just encourage you to “experiment” with the words of Jesus. See if what He says in Luke 6:38 is really true or not. Give more of your time, energy, resources, and money away for His Kingdom purposes and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed.

“…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Seasons of Refreshing

Photo by atmtx
Pool Time

Some of the fondest memories I have growing up happened in my parent's backyard. You see, around age eight, my parents were able to move up in house, and one of the awesome benefits that we as kids received was a pool in the backyard! We were the envy of some of our neighbors and friends. Not that we made a big fuss over the pool, but we had a blast inviting our friends over to go swimming with us.

There was nothing better on a hot, humid, summer day then to put on the old swimming trunks, fly out the back door, and run off our wood, reddish-stained deck into the pool. The water was cool, blue, clean, and refreshing. What made it even more refreshing was the fact that my parent's house is not air-conditioned (even to this day in 2012 - crazy!). I enjoyed doing cannonballs into the deep end, doing laps, and holding my breath under the cold water for as long as I could. By the time I finished my swimming session, my body temperature was lower, my thinking was clearer, and my body was refreshed.

Repentance Brings Refreshment

In Acts 3:19-20, we read the following:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
When Peter preached this message to the people in Jerusalem, he was speaking to those that didn't know Jesus. He was telling them that if they would repent of their sin and turn to God, that their sin debt would be completely wiped out. As a result of repentance and forgiveness, God would give refreshment to these new believers. The feeling would maybe kind of like jumping into a cold pool on a hot, humid, August day.

I not only think this is an important word for new believers, but even for those of us who have walked with Jesus for a while now. Sometimes in our spiritual walk, we can get lazy and sloppy. We allow a little sin here and a little sin there to creep into our lives and don't deal with that sin. Pretty soon, we have full blown sin habits and seeds of rebellion that have taken root in our lives. Over time, they start to become a pretty big problem. Our personal worship of Almighty God has been hindered. The sin growing in our lives is preventing intimacy with the Father.

Keep Short Accounts

There is a better way, though. Each day in our personal worship, we should be taking time to confess the sin that we are struggling with. We all need to do a better job of keeping short accounts with God. Not only should we confess that sin, but also we need to do a 180 degree turn away from that sin. We need to completely forsake it and run back to the Lord.

We should also strive to keep short sin accounts with our spouses, children, and friends. When we wrong those closest to us, we should be quick to ask for forgiveness. Plus, we should be especially quick to forgive those closest to us that have wronged us.

The results of this repentence and forsaking of sin are incredible! A season of refreshing will come on your life that is WAY better than jumping in a cold pool on a hot, summer day! An intimate, loving relationship with God will be re-established. Intimacy will be re-established with those closest to us.

The only way we can truly worship God Almighty is with clean hands and a pure heart. As you start this day, confess and forsake your sin to God and to others. Allow this day to begin with refreshment and not turmoil.

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