Friday, November 19, 2010

Work out your salvation...at God's gym.



How are those for pictures of feast or famine when it comes to exercising? Perhaps a bit too much one way or the other, huh? I'm not sure how the guy on the right manages to even pick his nose when the need arises. Sad, so sad. (Kind of resembles Laura when she is working out, though.)

I used to be quite the athlete. In fact, gymnastics was my favorite sport. Unfortunately most gymnasts need to be approximately hobbit-sized to be successful at their craft. I, being almost 7 feet tall, had difficulties. The following is actual footage of me.



As you can see, my career was sad and short lived. But from time to time, I still enjoy a good leap through the air and onto tables with people seated, just to bring back the old memories.

These days I go to Planet Fitness. For $10 a month I can work up a vigorous stink with out having to pay for all of the froo-froo amenities that I wouldn't use in the first place. Also, since this particular gym caters to folks who are not career athletes and "Beautiful People," but instead just regular types, for once in my life I am actually in better shape than most people in a given situation. This makes me feel superior, and my fragile ego receives a much needed boost. (I also enjoy lording it over the Grannies that I can bench more than they and their flying-squirrel arms can.)


There is a guy named Dan who is the main personal trainer. If he isn't cleaning something, he is usually with a customer teaching them the proper way to work a machine so that an arm or leg doesn't snap off and flop around on the carpet. Apparently I have asked for his advice enough that he now feels comfortable to give me advice wether I want to hear it or not.

I can't speak for women, but as a "GUY," we generally do not like to be told how to do things properly...especially when it comes to working out. It's probably a testosterone thing, but there is something about men that make them competitive in the strangest ways. Dan will come up to me and correct my method of doing what ever I am doing, and I always seem to feel a small sting of pride.

Once I correct my use of a machine or weight, I always seem to have to drop about 30lbs. Then it takes me a week to get back to the level I was at when I was doing it wrong. (Frustrating!) Still, I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen to Dan's instructions. Long term, the result is always better.



"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but no much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." Phil. 2:12-16


I had a long talk yesterday with a friend of mine. I had called to apologize for accidently hurting her feelings. It was purely one of those situations where everyone misunderstood the situation, so it was easily resolved. However, it made both of us talk about how each individual has buttons and triggers that can accidently be pushed or pulled by others unknowingly. Those buttons are unique to each person, and they come about over a lifetime of experiences both good and bad. Hence, the need for extending grace to others...and often to ourselves.

Many American churches are notorious for being places where masks are worn and a performance is put on. We do this because as "Christians" were are supposed to be perfect, you know. Now that Jesus has come into our lives, we are all just happy little sanitized robots with no problems what so ever.

If someone in that body has a struggle or issue, a happy & sanitized robot may offer them some unsolicited advice. My friend says that she hates the word "Ought." "You OUGHT to do this if you are struggling with that." The person offering the advice may mean well, but that often doesn't help.

Advice is best served after a relationship is established. If a stranger walked up to me in the gym and told me I was doing something wrong, I might choose to drop the weight on his foot. However, since I have already established a rapport with Dan, if he walks up and tells me something, I will listen. Dan is a little like the Apostle Paul in the passage above.

Paul was always a very clever writer. He uses interesting phrases to get folks to act. In those few sentences, he is complimenting, encouraging and essentially ORDERING the christians in Philippi to live a certain way. But he's so kind about it...makes you want to sign up.



I highlighted one phrase in there because it fascinates me. "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Theologians who emphasize "Free Will" (Arminians) love the first half of that sentence because it emphasizes human responsibility. Theologians who emphasize "Predestination" (Calvinists) love the second half because it emphasizes God's responsibility.

Chip Ingram has a book out titled "God, as he longs for you to see him." In it, he correctly points out that somehow, in God's infinite sovereignty, it's BOTH! Seriously, sometimes theologians & philosophers will get into nit-picking debates that don't really serve the church much. Often, it seems like you have to throw out half of the New Testament to reach their conclusions.

The idea that Paul saw both human freedom and God's hand working together in what would almost seem like a contradiction, didn't seem to bother him in the least. I don't see why it should bother us then.


Anyway, each of us has our uniquely weird issues. We desperately need God to repair our brokeness. (You may have been made righteous in God's eyes through Christ, but you still carry your old, nasty nature around with you.) We need to come along side others and be an encouragement to them, with the full understanding of our own struggles.

I don't see Jesus as being terribly pushy. Often, like me at the gym going up and asking Dan for advice, people would come to Jesus and ask him questions. Other times, Jesus would establish a relationship with someone and THEN offer his thoughts.

Believers need to act like that towards each other. We need to extend grace and mercy to one another in our churches...and towards those outside the body. I am a messy, messy guy. I can't say that I am successful most of the time, but I do try to keep my messiness in the front of my mind before I offer someone else an "Ought."

Anyway, it's just a thought.

Peace

Joe

P.S. Now that I am thinking about the gym and such, I shall freely offer advice on my favorite workout tune. It's funny how habits form, but I absolutely have certain songs that I use for certain routines. Perhaps you OUGHT to put these on your Ipod and give them a try for yourself.

One of my favorite exercises is the fly-press. Essentially you flap your arms in front of you and try to join your elbows. If you are successful like myself, you will soon have a chest so sexily-massive that sparrows will build nests in the shade of your pectorals.

I like to like to finish my day at the gym with this routine. I put on a lighter weight and these three songs...in this order, and just go until the music is done. (Ask me what my record is and I'll tell you. If you can beat it, I'll buy you some ice cream. That way you will get fat and not be able to top me again.)



Ah yes, "Big Hair" and a driving beat.



I know what you're thinking. Kevin Cronin should probably hit the gym himself. I'm surprised he can even lift that guitar.



BLACK SABBATH?!?!?!?!...on a CHRISTIAN blog?!?!?!?!?! Oh pipe down. It's a great, driving beat. (Besides, it could be worse. It could be Ozzie with his god-awful voice.)



OK, so maybe you like to do a pull-down for your triceps. Seriously, if you want to avoid the whole flying squirrel syndrome on your arms as you get older, this is a must. You know what I'm talking about. You've seen your aunt in short-sleeves.

My Grandmother refused to listen to me on this issue. She ended up leaping from branch to branch in tall trees. We needed a long-handled butterfly net to get her down. Don't let that happen to you or your loved ones.


Anyway, nothing can hypnotize you better than a long, live song from Neil Young...with all of his strange instrumental stuff thrown in for good measure. The weird ambiance of sound that he creates helps to block out the pain for me. This allows me to do numerous sets of ten because my brain has gone numb and I no longer notice that my arms are in burning agony. (You should hear me screaming & crying in the locker room after I pull the ear-buds out, though.)

If this song doesn't work for you, I also recommend "Cowgirl in the sand" or "All along the watchtower." All of Neil's songs must be live versions or you are an Apostate. The last of these really ought to be the one from his concert at Red Rocks with Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals to achieve the maximum effect.



Have fun exercising. :)

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