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Sunday
Jan202019

Day 3—Love Your Physical Body

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

The Bible honors the human body. Unlike some religious teaching that views the body with disgust and dislike, Scripture views the body as “wonderfully made.”

Paul tells us the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Our bodies are vital for our relationship with God.

Often Christians only focus on the potential for sin involving our bodies. We learn to avoid behaviors and substances that can harm our bodies. This can leave us without a positive vision for how to appreciate and use our bodies. We might not imagine that our bodies have anything positive to contribute to the life of faith.

I think this leaves us vulnerable to damaging attitudes toward our bodies. As mentioned in the video, the attitudes are perfectionism and neglect.

Perfectionism leads us to focus on how our bodies don’t fit our culture’s standards. We try to change what we don’t like through intense diet, exercise, and cosmetic surgery. This affects both women and men. Our looks and athletic performance can become unhealthy obsessions. Perfectionism is very critical of bodies.

Neglect leads us to largely ignore our bodies. We don’t eat well, we aren’t physically active, or we don’t take care of ourselves. We might only pay attention to our physical well being until we are hurt somehow.

Perfectionism and neglect can reinforce each other. If I can’t look the way I want, I won’t even try to be healthy.

Here’s an alternative- gratitude for our bodies. At each moment, there are thousands and thousands of processes happening to keep us alive. We aren’t in control of most of these processes.

Your heart beats without your effort. Your brain sends signals to move your muscles. Your stomach produces enzymes to turn food into energy. We are alive, through and as our bodies.   

Of course things go wrong with bodies. Children are born with birth defects. Disease brings suffering and death. We cry out to God about these things. We trust him to make all things new. But these problems do not negate the fact that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” We can meet God somehow through our physical being.

When we love our bodies, we are grateful to God for them. We see them as God’s gifts to us. We are kind and gentle to them. We try to appreciate our own and not compare with others. We take care of them with a positive sense.

Does this mean we can’t try to change things about ourselves? No, though this requires wisdom. I think of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

With God’s help, we learn to love our bodies allows us to live more joy, peace, and generosity of spirit.

Prayer Exercise:

One way to love our bodies is through prayer. This prayer exercise is one way to pray with specific attention to our bodies.

GAP Exercise for Day 3

 

Wednesday
Jan162019

Day 2—Is It Selfish to Love Yourself?

Luke 14: 25-27—Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
 
Matthew 14:24—Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
 
How do these verses fit with Jesus’ other words, “Love your neighbor as yourself?” How do we both love ourselves and deny ourselves?
 
Let’s think first about the life of Jesus. Jesus certainly suffers on the cross and faces hardship in other ways, but he doesn’t suffer as much as he possibly can. In Luke 4, Jesus didn’t let the crowd in Nazareth push him off of a cliff. Jesus avoids danger and stops to rest. He eats and drinks, so much that people call him a glutton.
 
Jesus doesn’t glorify suffering for the sake of suffering. Sometimes Christians get this wrong.
 
Jesus, along with so much of the New Testament, does call us to suffer when it leads to good for ourselves or others. Giving birth is an example of suffering that leads to new life. Banging your head against a wall might hurt, but it does not lead to new life.

What does Jesus call us to deny, “hate,” and let go of? Our social reputations, our delusions and lies, our self-centered pursuits, our own agendas, and our superiority to others. Jesus doesn’t want us to do this because we’ll suffer more! He gives us this invitation so we’ll find true and deeper life in God.

Just look at what Jesus says in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” You might say, Jesus wants us to lose our “false life” to find “true life” in him. This doesn’t mean try to increase our suffering or refusing to take care of ourselves.

Here’s a practical example of how we might figure out both denying and loving ourselves.

Let’s say I’m tired on a Saturday afternoon. Should I take a nap? Or should I deny my desire for rest for the sake of others? How might I decide?

Here’s a question I’ve found helpful.  We can ask “Is this action only good for me (or me and mine)? Or is it good for others as well?”

If taking a nap is only good for me; for instance, if my taking a nap would leave young children unsupervised or important work undone, then I probably should skip the nap. But if taking a nap would help me fight off an illness or be more patient with my family, then my nap would be good for others.

Sometimes our failure to take care of ourselves, even while trying to sacrifice for others, can actually harm others. If I’m “selflessly” cleaning the house while exhausted and I end up screaming at the children, I have probably done more harm than good.  

Is it selfish to love yourself? Is it selfish to share the attitude that God has toward you? Not at all. The Christian life will bring difficulties and sometimes invite significant sacrifices. But we will be much more willing and joyful during trials if we have learned to love, to delight in, and enjoy being ourselves.

GAP Exercise for Day 2

Sunday
Jan132019

Day 1—Love Yourself

An expert in the Jewish Law asked Jesus, “What’s the most important commandment in the Law?” The Hebrew word for Law is Torah, which is also what Jews call the first 5 books of the Old Testament. There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Which does Jesus say is the most important?

Matthew 22:37-40—Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

“Love God with everything you have and are. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus’ answer is familiar. We’ve heard the Golden Rule inspired by Jesus’ words: “Treat others the way you want them to treat us.”

But have you heard of the Hidden Rule? (Full disclosure, I made up that this is called the Hidden Rule. I think it works.)

“We treat others the way we treat ourselves.” When we see how we act toward others, we see how we see our own attitude to ourselves. If we are impatient, critical, judgmental, teasing, quick to blame, or eager to give advice to others, we get a glimpse at our own self-treatment. It’s likely we don’t even realize this most of the time.

When we hear “Love your neighbor as yourself,” it’s easy to assume that we love ourselves. But what does it really mean to love yourself? What if, in our sinful and fallen state, it is really hard to love ourselves as we ought to love?

During this eRevival, this is what we’ll explore: perhaps learning to love ourselves rightly is a key to loving God and our neighbors well.

Prayer Exercise:

Psalm 131:2 says, “But I have calmed and quieted myself.” The Bible indicates that silence and quiet are important to prayer.

To love ourselves, we also need to know ourselves. But so often, we are too busy, too overwhelmed with information, and too preoccupied to know what’s really going on with us. For example, have you ever been exhausted for weeks, but didn’t realize it until you got sick?

This prayer exercise is called "GAP," which stands for Ground Aware Presence. It is a simple way for us to still and quiet ourselves. We’ll be using the GAP exercise as preparation for prayer as we continue through this eRevival.

GAP Exercise for Day 1