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Claiming Your New Identity

I never felt much like an “athlete” growing up. I wasn’t involved in many sports. In high school I preferred things like show choir (jazz hands!) and the Latin club (nerd alert!).  

I never identified myself as an “athlete.”

But when I got into functional fitness, other people began to identify me that way. I still remember the shock that I felt the first time someone called me “muscular.” I remember feeling embarrassed and confused when a friend referred to the “Ken doll” in the room…and he was referring to me!  

What in the world was going on?!

Every time I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the same skinny choir boy I had always been. But others saw something different in me. I had changed. 

And I had to adjust to my new identity as an athlete.

In faith, it’s a lot like it is in fitness.  

We’ve just celebrated Easter — the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Resurrection proves to us that Jesus has the power to transform you and give you a new life. 

When you start following Jesus, God puts the old you to death. The way you used to see yourself — the old you — is dead and buried. And God raises you to a new life and a new identity. When you start following Jesus, you may not even recognize yourself any more!

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT), “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Easter is the time to claim your new identity in Christ.

Questions for Reflection:  

Since you committed your life to Christ, do others see a change in you?

What changes do you see in yourself?

What changes will you continue to work toward as you pursue your relationship with Christ?

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Get In the Game

What fitness goals do you have this new year? Athletes always have goals, whether they want bigger muscles, heavier lifts, or faster times, athletes seek something bigger.

Maybe you wouldn’t consider yourself an athlete…yet. If you’re not, could you make your goal to become one? Get in the game. Stop being a spectator. Stop talking about getting in shape and make the goal to do something about it.

And what goals do you have for your faith? When it comes to your faith, are you more like a spectator or an athlete?

Does your faith look more like basic rule-following or big risks and and big gains?

There’s a story in the Bible about a young man who Jesus challenged to a faith bigger than just basic rule following. He gave him a big goal and challenged him to a big risk that would result in great gain. But the young man couldn’t remain a spectator. He would have to get into the game.

Here’s the story:

“Someone came to Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’

Why ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.’  

Which ones?’ the man asked.

And Jesus replied: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely.  Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’  

I’ve obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else must I do?’  

Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”  (Matthew 19:16-22 NLT)

He was comfortable doing religious things, keeping the commandments, and following the rules. He was comfortable as a religious spectator.

But to actually follow Jesus was a bigger challenge than he was prepared for. So he walked away sad and unchanged.

This year, I don’t want you to walk away as a sad spectator in your fitness or your faith. Get in the game. Become an athlete.

What faith-goal do you imagine Jesus is putting before you?  What seemingly impossible task is he calling you to?  It’s probably not selling all your possessions, but it’s definitely going to be challenging.

Set a goal for your faith. And get in the game.

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Single-Arm Service

We all have our favorite movements and our most challenging movements.  But any movement that is single-arm or single-leg, tops my list of challenging movements. Isolating one side reminds me how much weaker the left-side of my body is than my right side.

One-arm presses on my left side are ugly.

One-legged squats on my left leg are. not. pretty.

When I do single-arm or single-leg work of any kind…I don’t end up looking very good.

And though Jesus doesn’t ever teach about single-arm dumbbell presses or one-legged squats, Jesus does teach about the importance of doing things with only one hand…metaphorically anyway.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus challenges his followers to serve with the right hand without letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. In a way, he challenged his followers to single-arm-service-work.

Jesus said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4 NLT)

In other words…don’t do good just to look good.

I think that’s one of the unique things about Functional Fitness. The goal of Functional Fitness isn’t to look good, it’s to function “good.” In functional fitness, we don’t workout to look good. We workout to do good. 

The proof is in recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey where I’ve seen many Faith Rx’d-ers and fitness enthusiasts come together to do good. (Faith Rx’d HQ was even able to quickly mobilize a clean-up team into Houston to help. Find out more about how Faith Rx’d is committed to Hope for Houston at FaithRxd.org/hope)

I have loved seeing the functional fitness community come together to put their fitness to work and to do good as they serve complete strangers whose homes got flooded.

That’s why we do this fitness stuff isn’t it? That’s why we put ourselves through such challenging workouts. It’s not so that we can look good but so that we can do good — to be strong enough to serve.

We workout so that we can cut out soggy-wet carpet, tear out sheetrock, and haul out heavy furniture to the curb. We workout so that we have the strength to bless our neighbors and serve our city and not be so wiped out and sore the next day that we can’t get up and do it again, because there’s still so much more work that needs to be done.

When our fitness community comes together for Harvey Relief, no one cares about looking good. No one cares about getting credit. No one cares about getting a pat-on-the-back or an attaboy for their service. No one was serving for fame or glory or for their name to be in lights.

No one was doing good just to look good.

In fact, here’s what I noticed about those relief-work-teams:  people would team up with complete strangers to serve complete strangers. Work teams were composed of people who didn’t even know one another’s first names. Sometimes they didn’t even know what each other’s faces looked like, because their faces were hidden behind their construction masks!

None of us were serving to look good. None of us were looking our best at all. We were covered in sweat and sheetrock and sewage-contaminated-moldy-creek-water.

In functional fitness, we don’t workout to look good. We workout to do good. We want to be strong enough to serve because service is the reward.

And that, I believe is how Jesus wants us to serve. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Just serve.

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The Challenge to Choose Suffering Over Sin

I was recently challenged to complete “Michael,” a Hero workout. “Michael” honors Navy Lieutenant Michael McGreevy who was killed in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. The workout involves three 800-meter runs among other things, but the runs are the most challenging part for me because…

I despise running.

Nearing the turn-around point of the third run, when I was tired, hurting, and all alone, I found myself tempted to cut the run just a little bit short. I thought to myself:  “Hadn’t I done enough work already? Didn’t I deserve a break? If I turned around now, my time would be at the top of the whiteboard for sure!”

It’s in moments like this, when we’re tired, hurting, and all alone that character becomes most challenging.

I’m ashamed even to have considered cheating a workout that is designed to honor a soldier who heroically gave his life. But the truth is, having character is a constant challenge to choose suffering over sin — to choose the hard right over the easy wrong.

When you’re tired, hurting, and all alone, do you choose the hard right or the easy wrong?

Character challenges you to choose suffering over sin.

I was recently challenged by reading about Moses, a Hero of the faith.  Moses had the character to choose suffering over sin. Moses chose the hard right over the easy wrong. He could have easily ignored the hardships of his people and lived the easy life in Pharaoh’s palace. But, “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” (Hebrews 11:25-26 NLT).

Character may be challenging, but it offers us a great reward.  A reward that’s better than the “fleeting pleasures” that easy wrongs promise us.

So may you accept the challenge to choose suffering over sin — choose the hard right over the easy wrong in both your fitness and your faith.

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It’s Kind of Like Church, But We Workout Instead of Sing

This past weekend, I spent time on my knees…face to the ground.  Sometimes my hands were in the air.  I even found myself jumping as the beat of the music pumped loudly.

You might think I’m describing my experience in a worship service.  But I’m not talking about worship.  I’m talking about fitness.  Or maybe a little of both.  

What is worship?

To worship is…

To make something #1 in your life.

To devote your life to something.

To attribute ultimate worth and value to something.

In the church, many times the word “worship” is used to mean “music.”  Once the music is over, we’re finished “worshiping” and we sit through the rest of the stuff in the worship service.

But don’t confuse “worship” with “music.”

We don’t worship and then hear a sermon and then give an offering and then share in the Lord’s Supper.  Instead, every event in the worship service is an act of worship.  

When we sing, we turn the attention of our minds, our hearts, and our voices to God.  We worship God through music.

When we give an offering we attribute literal worth to God by giving our first and our best.  By giving a percentage of everything we make a statement that God is worth everything. We worship God through giving.  

When we share in the Lord’s Supper together we remember that Christ has given his life for us, and we respond by giving our lives to him.  We worship God through communion.

 

Why do we confuse “worship” with “music?”  Because we fall into the trap of worshiping the music itself rather than the God it points to.  The musical experience mistakenly becomes the object of our worship.  

When I describe Faith Rx’d events to people, sometimes I say:  “It’s kind of like Sunday church, but we workout instead of sing.”  

We replace music (what many people call “worship”) with working out.  And just as the musical experience can mistakenly become the object of our worship, so too can working out.  

We can fall into the trap of worshiping fitness rather than the God it points to.

Are you using fitness to worship God?  Or have you begun to worship fitness itself?

To what do you devote more of your life?  To Fitness or to God?  

Don’t confuse fitness with worship.

Don’t let fitness become the object of your worship.  Instead let your pursuit of fitness become one more way to worship God.  He is much more worthy of our worship.

Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all that he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”