IN TRANSIT

A Timely Message From My Baseball Cap Reminds Me To Loosen My Grip On This World

When I’m meeting strangers in a public place for the first time, I’ll often help them recognize me by stating, “I’ll be wearing a black ball cap.” Those who know me well might nod in recognition at the fact that, more often than not, I’m wearing one of the many black caps I possess thanks to some leftover merch from my Christian Indie Artist days.

Created to promote my second album, In Transit, the front of the cap sports a vintage pickup truck while the back says, “This World Is Not My Home.” This familiar Christian sentiment is channeled in a lyric from my song Midnight Train:

We’re all just souls in transit

We watch as this world passes away…

The album – and related merchandise – was released in 2004, and I’ve carried this message on my person more days than not since that time. For the past 16 years my black caps and I have seen stock market ups and downs, various virus scares, geopolitical confrontations and all-out wars. Most of the time, however, life has been good. Too good, in fact, to not let complacency, comfort, and familiarity define my relationship with this world. Even my first-world inconveniences seem unjust, when for all of human history life for most has been lived with no certainty and a security window that lasted for days or weeks at most.

Even my first-world inconveniences seem unjust, when for all of human history life for most has been lived with no certainty and a security window that lasted for days or weeks at most.

I don’t think I’m alone. Unforeseen interruptions to our daily lives too often come as shocks to our system rather than anticipated occurrences in a world hurtling toward a chaotic end. Jesus has given us ample warning of what we should expect in this world:

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. – Matt 24:6-8 ESV

It is because of the certainty of its demise that our Leader reminds us not to set our hopes and affections on what we can attain or experience here:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…– Matt 6: 19 ESV

Far better, He says, to live for our true home, and make investments that will not perish:

…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

– Matt 6:20 ESV

Placing our hopes and affections on the things this world offers is essentially the same kind of idolatry we often frame in Old Testament terms. But bowing down or offering something of value to a graven image is not the only way we can worship. I think it’s fair to ask how deep our pangs of anger and disappointment have been as we’ve seen our favorite sporting and artistic events cancelled, our favorite dining establishments shuttered, our health clubs closed, our comfortable routines upset, and our investment portfolios upended. The song Clear The Stage offers one of the better definitions of idolatry I’ve come across:

Any thing I put before my God is an idol

Any thing I want with all my heart is an idol

Any think I can’t stop thinking of is an idol

And any thing that I give all my love is an idol

I think it’s fair to ask how deep our pangs of anger and disappointment have been as we’ve seen our favorite sporting and artistic events cancelled, our favorite dining establishments shuttered, our health clubs closed, our comfortable routines upset, and our investment portfolios upended.

I believe our current global crucible is revealing many things to which we Christ followers have given our affections. As these are revealed to us, our appropriate response is a fresh repentance and a loosening of the mental and emotional traction we have allowed them to gain in our hearts and our minds.

The Christian is not ultimately made for this world, and it was not Jesus’ intent that we should become too comfortable here. Amidst our current trials, my old ball cap will continue to remind me that we are all In Transit and called to lives characterized by a hope and joy that transcends the turmoil that will always be a part of our experience here. We are not immune from the hardships, but our Savior and Redeemer will get the last word:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. –Jn 16:33 ESV

David Bush is an author, pastor, singer & songwriter and founder of the body stewardship ministry Fit For The King. http://www.fit4theking.net

YOUR SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE HOLIDAY FOOD GAUNTLET

We have officially entered the season of overindulgence, which will provide no shortage of opportunities to test your dietary resolve and bring ruination to your healthy eating plan. Just past was Halloween, replete with brimming bowls of candy at every office workstation, reception desk and, more than likely, your pantry (you bought them for those adorable trick or treaters…right?)!

At least turning down these “fun size” treats wasn’t dissing on someone else’s cooking or hospitality.

The gauntlet ahead: The Harvest Party (pumpkin bars, candy corn mix, s’mores, cider and hot chocolate), Thanksgiving (whipped potatoes with gravy, stuffing, pies), Bowl game parties (little smokies swimming in barbecue sauce, Scotcheroos and nine-layer dip and chips), Christmas parties, New Year’s parties and Super Bowl parties. After a brief reprieve to catch our collective breath (and, perhaps, reorder insulin) we set our face toward Valentine’s Day (did someone say chocolate?) and Easter (marshmallow peeps, malted eggs and jelly beans anyone?).

You don’t want to hurt feelings, come off as a health snob, or subtly induce fat shame on those who indulge. What do you do?

These annual opportunities to lose our way (and waistlines) will merge with birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, work anniversaries and assorted other celebrations that will include foods low in nutrition and high in calories. And with each event comes the opportunity to offend or make yourself a focus of attention because of what you’re not eating.

Don’t get me wrong – I like most of the treats and all of the events listed here. But each successive wave presents dangers to the individual who is trying to make changes that will improve their health.

You don’t want to hurt feelings, come off as a health snob, or subtly induce fat shame on those who indulge. What do you do?

Here are some suggestions to help you navigate these choppy waters, some of which were provided by my helpful Fit For The King Facebook friends:

  • Just say “No, Thank You.” You are not obligated to eat unhealthy foods. Here we need to be honest with ourselves. Are we using the excuse of not wanting to be impolite as a rationalization to eat food we want to eat but shouldn’t? If you feel you need to give an explanation for declining something, here are some suggestions that are both true and kind at the same time:

“I’m currently under some dietary restrictions and will have to pass.”

“I’d love to try this, but it’s not part of my eating plan right now.”

“This looks delicious but I’m already full.”

“I’m reducing sugar from my diet because it’s supposedly causing inflammation. I’m trying to see if it makes a difference.”

Fortunately, in a culture where dietary restrictions are now common, this won’t be as awkward as it might have been in previous years.

  • Increase your calorie burn. While I’m not an advocate for working out so you can eat indiscriminately, increasing your movement knowing that you will be celebrating with family and friends may be the better part of wisdom. The realization that it will take about a half-hour running on the treadmill to work off one slice of pumpkin pie may also assist in your restraint!
  • Eat before you arrive. This could be especially appropriate for gatherings that include hors d’oeuvres or desserts. If this is your strategy, it will be important to remind yourself, “I’ve just eaten, and I’m full and satisfied.” With this approach, you can focus on interpersonal connection and simply tell others “I just ate and I’m full.”
  • Share with someone. Want to cut your calorie count in half? Split your dessert or side dish with your spouse, your date, or your friend. Perhaps what is offered is appropriate for your situation, but the portion size offered might be larger than ideal. Take one serving and split it with someone.
  • Accept what is offered and hold on to it without eating. If you possess a high level of self-control, this might be the ticket for you. One advantage of this approach is that it’s not likely you’ll be offered more when you have something already in front of you.
  • Bring your own healthy option. Few hosts would be offended by the proposition of extra food, especially if it’s masquerading as a host gift. In addition to providing you with a healthy option for snacking, you will also provide one for others who may be seeking shelter in the gastronomical storm.
  • Host the party. Take the initiative to organize or host the gathering and put yourself in a position to influence what is offered. As a host or organizer, you can make sure healthier menu and treat options are available for you and everyone else seeking dietary refuge.
  • Regretfully decline the invitation. If parties have become a snare for you, and you’re not sure you’re strong enough to withstand the temptation to overindulge, the wisest choice would be to avoid the situation. Like an alcoholic who needs to avoid loitering around a liquor store, there may be occasions where, for the sake of your own health and forward progress, you need to stay away. There will always be another opportunity to socialize and make memories that might not hold the potential for unraveling your progress.

Holidays and special occasions are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, and indulgent food is often a part of these. But the most important thing is the connection with other people.

So what about when we slip, overindulge and make unhealthy choices? It’s critical to remember that God’s grace is abundant, that He’s not surprised or disappointed with our behavior, and that one mistake doesn’t have to snowball into a series of setbacks. The Christian walk is not an “all or nothing” proposition. The good news of the gospel is that God loves us in spite of our imperfections and is eager for us to move forward with Him.

Holidays and special occasions are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, and indulgent food is often a part of these. But the most important thing is the connection with other people. If we focus on learning about others and drawing them out, our focus will be in the right place. If what we eat as our normal diet is highly nutritious, situations like this don’t have to be filled with deprivation or remorse. When we are at a healthy weight and eating well, less-than-ideal options and desserts can have their place in a balanced, active lifestyle. Whatever the situation, God’s word can guide us in understanding what is appropriate for our circumstance:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

Kanye West’s Story Reveals An Unmistakable Fruit Of The Gospel

“So dad, have you heard about what’s going on with Kanye?” my millennial son asked me recently. He excitedly relayed the eyebrow-raising account of Kanye West’s conversion, discipleship relationship with a credible pastor, and imminent release of an album titled “Jesus Is King.” His interest was piqued partly because much of this story was playing out at a small church connected to the conservative Christian University from which he and one of his brothers graduated.

“The proof of his ‘conversion’ will be an undeniable transformation in his behavior and priorities”

All I knew about rapper Kanye West was his cringe-inducing interruption of Taylor Swift at an MTV  Music Video Awards event, a mismatched photo op and speech he delivered in the Oval Office with President Trump, and that he was married to Kim Kardashian.

I warned him to be cautious, to wait for the inevitable walk-back that often comes with celebrity conversions. “The proof of his ‘conversion’ will be an undeniable transformation in his behavior and priorities”, I added skeptically.

The updates continued to roll in. Now all four of my sons were sharing podcasts, interview clips, videos, and cuts from his new album. Interviews that spoke credibly (and biblically) about his conversion and new perspective, and songs that exalted Jesus, contained verbatim scripture and even gave props to Chick fil-A.

My sons are not alone. Social media is abuzz with shock and amazement over “what’s happened to Kanye.” It seems obvious that something transformational has taken place. The artist whose narcissistic and profane raps included titles like “Ye-Sus” (a mash-up of Kanye and Jesus), and “I Am A God”, also shared with viewers of Jimmy Kimmel Live his fascination with black on white porn on Porn Hub. Previously,  his confidence in his own opinions seemed unrivaled, but now is now providing lucid and credible testimony of a dramatic change of direction made possible by the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18).

And followers of Jesus are inspired and excited. Not just because of a momentary bump in credibility and relevance this might provide the Christian community, but because uncharacteristic and dramatic change is taking place very publicly and in real time to a wildly popular blasphemer and reprobate.

“The gospel that saved us continues to transform us when we allow the power of its truths to mold our minds, bodies, and affections”

In many ways this unfolding story provides a picture of what is missing in much of our experience within the Body of Christ. Admittedly, he is a newer believer. But Kanye’s journey of transformation already stands in stark contrast to the lives of many professing Christians whose growth in Christ seems to shift into neutral shortly after they are enculturated in the church. Many in the church seem to be of the opinion that they’ve accomplished God’s goal for their life upon receiving His gift of forgiveness in Christ. The fact that transformation into the likeness of Christ, not heaven, is God’s goal for our lives is an unsettling revelation for some.

The gospel that saved us continues to transform us when we allow the power of its truths to mold our minds, bodies, and affections (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). This transformation is what brings God glory. I wonder what glory God would be receiving if, in his post-conversion interviews, Kanye West constantly talked about the certainty he had of going to heaven when he died. How about an album full of songs about walking on streets paved with gold in the by and by? Would this have caught the attention of my sons?

Kanye is young in his walk with Christ, and we will undoubtedly hear reports of relapses and blemishes to his testimony (let’s welcome him to the club!), and cringe at some theologically challenged quotes. Presently, however, it is the dramatic, visible, God-honoring reality of transformation that makes his profession of faith in Jesus credible. It will be a broad, Spirit-enabled, gospel-empowered transformation of the lives of professing Christians that will cause an unbelieving world to see that Jesus is a King worth following.

David Bush is the Founder of the body stewardship ministry Fit For The King and author of the new book The Body Gospel: 30 Days of Gospel Truth That Will Transform Your Mind, Body and Spirit.

David Bush is the founder of the body stewardship ministry Fit For The King and author of the new book The Body Gospel: 30 Days Of Gospel Truth That Will Transform Your Mind, Body And Spirit.

TRANSITION

My church’s response to adversity provides a blueprint for personal transformation

By: David Bush

This week marks my transition from the relative stability of church-based pastoral work to the walk-by-faith world of entrepreneurial ministry. Like most ending a long season of church work, I’ve done my share of navel-gazing in an attempt to understand and quantify how God has used me for the past 15 years in my most recent Kingdom assignment.

Condensing my contributions at the church I served down to one grand summary statement: I helped move a once-vibrant church through a season of brokenness, ineffectiveness, and uncertainty to a new, healthy foundation with a hopeful future.

An early mega-church that grew exponentially during the late 70’s and 80’s, my church experienced two devastating splits within a few years’ time, overwhelming the remnant congregation with the debt and discord left in their wake.

Thus began years of spiritual triage as those who remained were burdened with an edifice much larger than was needed, along with its associated upkeep expenses. Empty hallways, abandoned and musty rooms, stained and missing ceiling tiles and unkempt parking lots screamed “unhealthy!” to every visitor who set foot on our property.  I remember with clarity the congregational meeting at which leadership revealed the ten million dollar price tag our facility was going to exact on God’s resources should we choose to remain where we were.

The congregation despaired at seeing their financial stewardship funneled into facility upkeep instead of ministry, a prayer list that consistently highlighted our own needs instead of the great needs of those outside our walls, and the shame and lack of confidence that came from being associated with a church undergoing a very public decline. For years I felt I needed to explain why I was continuing to labor at a church that had lost members to nearly every other congregation in the city. For those who have not been through this kind of church experience, I can testify that a long season of ministry in this state will threaten to metastasize into your view of God, His purposes for you, and even your identity.

By God’s grace, He helped us see a preferable future. A future where our facility could serve the mission instead of us serving the facility, and where we would no longer let our destiny be defined by the failures, hurts, and missteps of the past. This involved repentance, hard decisions, a fresh vision, years of committed labor, and a surrendering of the past to embrace a more vital pursuit of God’s purpose for our existence.

God helped us see a preferable future… where our facility could serve the mission instead of us serving the facility

As we began to envision a new physical home for our congregation, our focus was on functionality and economy as well as presenting the best impression possible on those who would risk a visit to our services. While we had learned hard lessons about impressive structures in the past, we also understood we represented Jesus and were anxious to remove any barriers to Him we reasonably could. An accessible location, well-lighted and landscaped grounds, a visually pleasing interior and functional ease for visitors were the topics of many discussions as the plans developed. The conversations in this regard were never about us, the image we wished to project or the creature comforts we desired; they were about others and how we could serve them best.

As I left my staff position last week, I marveled at the work God has done through His cooperative Body. Our replanted church has a new name, a new vision, the capacity to engage its community, a hopeful future, and, if I can say it, a healthy mojo that can serve it well as they minister with confidence.

So what am I going to do now? Actually, I feel called to the same kind of broad ministry I’ve been laboring at in this most recent season: help the church experience personal revival and transformation that can move it from self-obsession to a revitalized passion for God and others.

I feel called to help the church experience personal revival and transformation that can move it from self-obsession to a revitalized passion for God and others.

The challenges I’ve described from my home church are being faced by the Church at large in North America, only with a far more personal application: a disproportionally high number of Christ-followers are unable to engage the ministry of the Church due to compromised physical health. For too many in the church, the present and future maintenance and upkeep costs for our physical bodies have become an oversized burden that impacts our finances, our sense of confidence and self-worth, and, most significantly, our ability to effectively love those we are called to serve. Our prayer lists are weighed down with entreaties for God to heal self-inflicted wounds instead of for the lost and hurting outside our walls. In short, we’re too often serving the building instead of the building serving and facilitating ministry.

As my church’s experience shows, it doesn’t have to be this way.

I invite you to join me in my transition. Together, let’s repent from wrong thinking, motives and strategies that have us trying to do spiritual battle with only the world’s ideas and resources. Let’s surrender past hurts and failures in the area of body care that leave us paralyzed and fearful. Let’s trade a future filled with missed opportunities and regret for a preferable future of expanded availability to the great call of every follower of Jesus.

Following 20 years in church evangelism, worship and discipleship roles, David is developing the body stewardship ministry of Fit For The King. Learn more and join him in his mission at www.fit4theking.net

The Seductive Lie of Rapid Results

Overweight.Man.Dreaming

It’s the first week of January. This is the time of year when Christmas carols fade and the siren song of diet marketers promising “quick results” saturate print, radio, television and social media.

When someone claims they can deliver huge financial returns virtually overnight we call it a “get rich quick scheme.” When they promise a degree over a 3-day weekend we call it a “diploma mill.” We know intuitively that any worthwhile and beneficial endeavor will involve perseverance and discipline, and that any shortcut is likely a scam. When speaking about quick changes in our body composition, however, we tend to use more nuanced language. For millions of Americans rapid weight loss is called a “personal goal” or “New Year’s resolution.”

I will call it what it is – a seductive lie.

 The same forces that are at work when we visit a casino or pay ten percent down for a new car that depreciates the moment it leaves the dealer’s lot are at work when we pursue shortcuts in physiological discipleship. We want to own or experience something we have not earned or for which we have not paid for. It takes months or years of consistent behavior patterns to gain significant unwanted weight, but we want the consequences of these behaviors mitigated in six weeks or less.

The sad truth is our flesh craves transformation without the testing of time, the crucible of denial and the discipline of perseverance and faithfulness.

 Few good, enduring, and sustainable things in life happen quickly. We are warned in Scripture to avoid the allure of gain without effort or pain:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Proverbs 13:11

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

We are warned in Scripture not to elevate a new believer quickly to leadership as true spiritual maturity takes time:

The leader must not be a new believer. If he is, he might become proud. Then he would be judged just like the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:6

Even the Apostle Paul, who possessed serious spiritual credentials at the time of his conversion, spent three years letting the Holy Spirit transform a heart given to zealous legalism. (Gal 1: 14-18) 

The sad truth is our flesh craves transformation without the testing of time, the crucible of denial and the discipline of perseverance and faithfulness. This is the domain of covetousness, not sanctification. You can’t achieve physiological “fast results” that stand the test of time any more than you can microwave spiritual maturity.

Quick weight loss – if it does occur – doesn’t last because it never addresses the underlying issues that initially fostered the unhealthy behavior. In this regard, crash diets are simply another manifestation of man-centered shortcuts to a desired destination: belief without repentance and spiritual maturity without testing. Like the redeemed magician in Acts chapter 8, we’d rather pay for quick results without the burden of actually dealing with a heart condition.

Our journey of transformation in Christ is always described as a daily walk, a race requiring endurance, and a strategic discipline. Instead of “revving up our metabolism”, let’s commit to the bigger challenge of an honest, humble, and Spirit-empowered pursuit of daily discipline. If we can do that, the first week in January will be no different than the other fifty-one.

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” – Heb 12: 1-2a

The Myth Of A Compartmentalized Life

Compartments and Filing

 

THE MYTH OF A COMPARTMENTALIZED LIFE

By David Bush

I’ve developed an online fitness challenge that typically runs in the spring and fall. People from across the country looking for a biblical perspective on health and fitness join together for 28 days to learn nutritious eating habits, healthy movement, and most importantly, how the gospel informs our body stewardship.

I don’t know most of the people who take part in these challenges as they are often friends or relatives of those who have encountered INSPIRE or Fit For The King events or resources. One such participant asked to be dropped from our faith-based challenge after a few days and moved to another challenge with a different fitness emphasis. She explained her reason for leaving:

“I didn’t realize this was a Bible and religious teaching weight loss challenge. Even though I’m very religious I like to keep my Bible study separate from my exercise/diet study. Can I switch to a challenge that is more fine-tuned to me?”

Without realizing it, this lady just articulated with great clarity both the current malaise experienced in our churches as well as the predominant thinking of our culture as it relates to matters of faith. Even for “religious” people, matters of faith and spirituality have little bearing and influence in the practical aspects of our multifaceted lives. Our faith is simply one more compartment in which we can file away inspirational or moral “truths” that fit our lifestyles and worldviews. We can summon them from the moth balls when needed.

Perhaps we see no gospel relevance, or, more likely, we desire no gospel intervention in areas of our lives we wish to remain unredeemed.

We should be honest and admit that while we might not write the words referenced above, we all too often live compartmentalized lives as well. We speak often of compartmentalizing grief,  anger, vocations, finances, and more as if the gospel holds no sway in these matters. Perhaps we see no gospel relevance, or, more likely, we desire no gospel intervention in areas of our lives we wish to remain unredeemed.

For the follower of Christ, this is not an option. According to Scripture, it’s not even possible:

 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”   – 1 Thessalonians 5: 6 – 24 (ESV)

Resisting the sanctifying work of the gospel is tantamount to “quenching the Spirit” – the indwelling agent of redemptive transformation. Our spirits, our souls, and our bodies are involved in this overhaul that is both God’s right and responsibility.

In the absence of transformed lives, much has been made in recent years of evangelistic processes and activities that can “reach the lost” and “make the church relevant again.” But into this transformative void author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth rightly asserts in her book Adorned: Living out the Beauty of the Gospel Together:

“There is simply NO more powerful tool of evangelism than for Christians to believe and demonstrate the doctrine and gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Our penchant for compartmentalization not only fosters spiritual turmoil as we wrestle with the Holy Spirit for control of our lives, it also presents a hypocritical front to a world hungry to see a gospel that works. In this regard German philosopher Heinrich Heine said:

“Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.”

For the glory of God and the sake of the lost, may we allow the redemptive power of the gospel to infiltrate, influence, and inform every area of our lives.

David Bush  is an author, speaker, Worship Pastor and founder of Fit For The King. More resources in the area of body stewardship are available at www.fit4theking.net

Our Bodies, Our Stories

OUR BODIES, OUR STORIES

David Bush with Joe Tewell

“I don’t know if I can do this!” Marci confessed as she retreated to a bench. We were just halfway through her second session warm-up and things were already unraveling. I didn’t want a scene in the crowded fitness center, but it was against my nature to let someone fold so quickly. I formulated some phrases that I’d found were effective over the years in prodding my clients to give more than they thought they were capable of giving. After all, she’d hardly broken a sweat, and I knew I wasn’t doing her any favors by accommodating her preconceived barriers. If I caved every time an unfit client got winded I’d be out of a job.

Which verbal switch should I use on Marci? “Go ahead and quit then…I’m sure quitting will solve your problems” had proven effective in the past. I was ready to unleash this pearl of wisdom when I noticed that Marci’s cries of physical pain had somehow morphed into something deeper. Tears were staining her cheeks as she sat staring into space.

In a commendable act of transparency, Marci was revealing how her regrettable personal history had ultimately metastasized to her physical body.

The uncomfortable scene that was playing out in front of me was enough of a shock to remind me that I wasn’t just a personal trainer trying to keep a client on task. I was also supposed to be a spiritual mentor and encourager to those who reached out for help after experiencing a faith-focused fitness ministry I helped facilitate. “What’s going on Marci?” was all I could muster at the time.

I soon discovered the answer to my question. Marci called me and asked if I could meet to talk. I was certain this appointment was when she was going to tell me my services were no longer needed and that she was going to address her physical issues some other way. Instead, she brought a sheet of copy paper to our meeting covered with writing. On the paper she’d listed significant dysfunctional relationships, tragic offenses, hurtful memories, damaging personal violations, and harmful responses and coping mechanisms: heavy drinking, sexual promiscuity, and broken relationships. One statement on the page particularly jumped out at me – “Fat is acting like a protective layer…” In a commendable act of transparency, Marci was revealing how her regrettable personal history had ultimately metastasized to her physical body.

It was a story I knew all too well myself.

A product of a dysfunctional home, hadn’t I used athletics and bodybuilding as a way to exorcise the demons that controlled my life? Compliment-inducing muscle had become my protective shield instead of fat.

All I could offer Marci was the same strong medicine that had revolutionized my life and perspective: surrender. Not compliance to a new diet or workout routine – after all, of what help is a set of burpees to a crushed and broken spirit? Marci’s greatest need was to surrender to the only Personal Trainer who is capable of transforming broken lives, bodies, and spirits: Jesus. I found that out for myself only after years of trying things my way and wondering why I could never outrun my past. Fully entrusting her scars, her fears, her shame, and her own misconduct was the only way out of the prison that held her.

A product of a dysfunctional home, hadn’t I used athletics and bodybuilding as a way to exorcise the demons that controlled my life? Compliment-inducing muscle had become my protective shield instead of fat.

Marci is finding, as I did, that surrender is actually liberating. It’s also necessary for anyone who says they want to follow Jesus. Marci and I are reminding each other of this each week as we meet to continue transforming our bodies and our spirits.

We’re discovering that our personal histories no longer have to define us; that in Christ they can become the keys that help others unlock the chains that keep their spirits and bodies in bondage.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God… But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,4:7-11 ESV

“Being Fit For The King means being physically available to love God completely, let Him love others through you, and accomplish all He desires with you for His glory.”

More information and resources available at www.fit4theking.net

 

Availability Personified

By David Bush

 

pregnant-woman

Merriam Webster’s definition of the word “Available” reads as follows:

Available

: easy or possible to get or use

: present or ready for use

These definitions connote a sense of immediacy, responsiveness, and surrender. We might picture a construction worker with needed tools fastened to his tool belt, or an artist with a pallet of colors ready to be employed with a dip of a brush. If you have to wait, search, or rummage through clutter, the thing you need would not be considered particularly available.

While availability most certainly involves readiness, true availability also involves elements of duration and endurance. True availability doesn’t set time limits or convenience thresholds.

Fit For The King has attempted to define the issue of body stewardship in terms of physical availability:

“Being Fit For The King means being physically available to love God completely, let Him love others through you, and accomplish all He desires with you for His glory”

In the midst of a Christian culture that has erected roadblocks to physical availability for Kingdom work, it is inspiring to see radical abandonment of self to accomplish this goal. In the midst of a secular culture that has bred narcissistic and body conscious fitness devotees, selfless acts of physical surrender are also rare. The blood and organ donor, the fasting prayer warrior, and the self-denying pursuer of a fit and available body share a fellowship of holistic worship.

It would be hard to present a more authentic example of physical availability than Kelly Kalvig. A pilates studio manager and instructor, Kelly is passionate about good nutrition and consistent exercise. She has spent years sculpting bodies through rigorous exercise routines and encouraging healthy nutrition and lifestyles, and is acutely aware that her own physical state is a daily calling card for the business. Her commitment is unquestioned as she has rebounded from three pregnancies to return to an athletic physical state.

pilates-workoutWith the rigors of her own childbearing in the past, it would be natural for Kelly to focus on the kinds of familiar physical availability that would help her serve her husband, her immediate family, and church. But recently God presented Kelly with a unique opportunity to physically serve her sister in a deep and intensely personal way.

Despite numerous attempts at conceiving naturally and through in vitro fertilization, Kelly’s sister Jodi was not able to sustain a pregnancy. With a number of fertilized eggs frozen and awaiting implantation, they were at a crossroads regarding how to proceed.

After much prayer and deliberation with her husband Jon, Kelly felt God was leading her to offer her body as a gestational carrier to sustain her sister and brother-in-law’s child. Her understandable compassion became a tangible and committed expression of costly love. This would involve implantation of their embryo via a natural transfer. Her surrogate pregnancy also opened the door to many other inconveniences, both known and unknown:

  • Nine months of pregnancy, and a painful and physically demanding delivery.
  • Numerous OB/GYN doctor visits.
  • An increasing impact on her ability to perform her job as a fitness instructor.
  • A body that will once again experience the gauntlet of pregnancy and recovery.
  • The unknown emotional toll that giving up a child she has nurtured and delivered will take.

Kelly is currently 20 weeks pregnant with Jodi and Heath’s child. All are grateful that the pregnancy is progressing without complications.

kalvig-ultrasound

In a Christian culture that can minimize the commitment Jesus asks of us, Kelly’s physical availability and she and Jon’s willingness to be inconvenienced provides inspiration to all who have surrendered their bodies to Kingdom purposes. Kelly’s willingness to let God love and serve another through her physical body embodies our definition of what it means to be Fit For the King.

 

kelly-and-jodi-kalvig

Jodi, left, and Kelly Kalvig

For more information and inspiration on the topic of faith and fitness, go to http://www.fit4theking.net

 

 

Victim, Survivor…or Hero?

Heroes-Vict-Blog-Montage-wi

By David Bush

In just the past several weeks, we’ve been shocked by stories of man versus beast encounters at a zoo and a popular theme park. In separate incidents, an entertainer is gunned down during a post-concert meet and greet with fans, and 49 people at a nightclub are killed in a horrifying mass murder. Record floods sweep away property, lives, and dreams.  A 24/7 news culture and a world embroiled in ideological wars and a moral freefall seems primed to produce a steady stream of these kinds of tragedies.

In each instance, innocent bystanders are thrust into life-and-death situations they would never choose, but to which they must quickly respond. Too often, the reality of personal helplessness descends on those caught up in the turmoil as they realize they possess neither the training, the courage, the presence of mind, or the physiological capacity to do anything to save themselves or others.

In the aftermath of these stories, the people involved typically fall into one of three camps: victims, survivors, or heroes. While there is often nothing even the most prepared individual can do if they are caught in a natural disaster or in the proximity of an armed killer in the initial moments of a melee, a post-mortem of an event often uncovers missed opportunities to preserve life and limit the carnage. Whether danger comes as a result of the forces of nature or an individual in a violence-prone culture, it will fall to us to personally prepare – as best as we’re able – so as not to succumb to victimhood should we and our families be confronted with a life-threatening situation.

In doing so, we fulfill much of the purpose statement of what it means to be “Fit For The King”:

“Being Fit For The King is to be physically available to love God completely, let Him love others through you, and accomplish all He desires with you for His glory.”

As a faith and fitness writer and speaker, it’s hard not to be confronted with the physiological component of these kinds of tragedies. How many become victims because of their inability to react and respond physically to the threat they’re facing? How many survive because they possessed the strength, endurance, or confidence to act in the midst of chaos? Who determines to put themselves in harm’s way out of a selfless response to serve and protect others? What kinds of people are selected as easy targets to begin with? Is our rapidly declining state of physical health turning us into a nation ripe for victimization?

In an emergency, could I sprint 200 yards to escape danger? Could I scale an 8-foot fence? Could I walk or run for miles to get to a road or reach cell service? Could I carry someone to safety?

I recently became aware of a personal connection my ministry partner, Joe Tewell, had to a dramatic local episode whose anniversary provides potential lessons in the midst of tragedy. Des Moines Register photographer Mary Chind arrived at the scene in time to chronicle the event with pictures that eventually won her a Pulitzer Prize.

Searching by boat for a favorable shore site to watch the July 4th fireworks spectacular provided each year by the City of Des Moines, Alan and Patty Neely, 62 and 67 respectively, traversed the Racoon River in Des Moines on the afternoon of July 3rd. Their boat unexpectedly capsized, throwing both into the river and sending them over a dam and into a churning wake at its base. Alan’s life vest fell off in the torrent, and, unable to suspend himself, he quickly drowned. Patty was able to secure her life vest and, in concert with her feet kicking and arms stroking, was able to keep her head above the roiling water despite being regularly submerged. Aware her husband was lost, she did this for 35 minutes as fire and rescue teams stood helpless on the bridge above, unable to reach her by boat or rope.

Patty Neely Treading Water

A hero came to Patty’s recue: Jason Oglesbee, a fit construction worker employed near the scene who commandeered a large crane and swung out over the river balancing on a braid of chain.

Jason Oglesbee Saving Patty

With one hand Oglesbee pulled Patty out of the sucking force at the fall’s base and held on as the crane took them both to the river’s bank.

Jason Ogglesbee Saving Patty 2

 

A victim, a survivor, and a hero. Yet there is more to this story than what might appear to be simply a fateful assignment of roles.

Three years prior to this tragic day Patty arrived at Joe Tewell’s fitness club looking for some help with her physical conditioning. In her mid-60’s she was falling into the all-too-common retirement scenario of sedentary living and physical atrophy. Not wanting to have her mobility dictated by a page on the calendar, Patty began training with Joe’s staff, improving her cardiorespiratory condition as well as undergoing resistance training for her whole body. At each of her appointments, her husband Alan would drop her off and then return to fetch her in the lobby – which is as far into the health club as he ever ventured.  Patty worked hard, faithfully working out four times per week; challenging herself to new levels of accomplishment despite her advanced age. Patty’s submission to a gauntlet of conditioning instead of an easy chair more than likely meant the difference between life and death on that July 3rd when the unthinkable happened. Jason Oglebee’s strength and courage, developed through his own fitness regimen, were also necessary.

Events like this should cause us to ask ourselves some important questions about our readiness to respond in a life-threatening situation: In an emergency, could I sprint 200 yards to escape danger? Could I scale an 8-foot fence? Could I walk or run for miles to get to a road or reach cell service? Could I carry someone to safety? Could I tread churning water for 30 minutes? Patty Neely’s story proves that fitness and readiness is often the deciding factor – not age or even gender.

Given the climate of our culture and our mandate of availability to serve others, what role are you preparing for: Victim… Survivor… or Hero? In an increasingly hostile and uncertain world, you may be called upon to serve your family or others. Will you be prepared to answer the call?

David Bush is a Worship Pastor,  Author, Speaker and blogger. Learn more about his ministry at http://www.fit4theking.net and http://www.davidbush.com

 

Me Before You

By David Bush

Me Before You pic

Ever since the trailer for Me Before You began showing months ago, my wife has been telling me “we’ve got to see this movie!” She didn’t need to twist my arm, as I routinely surrender my man card to view “chick flicks.” This story seemed witty, compelling, and different than most, so I was also looking forward to its release.

That was until I discovered its punch line. Nowhere in the several minutes of preview was there any indication that this film would end up giving a sympathetic portrayal of assisted suicide. Instead of a romantic story of a beautiful woman helping a broken man find his will to live, we see an affirmation of a man’s “noble” choice to kill himself rather than subjecting the woman who loves him (and others) to the burden of caring for him. His existence was simply another “choice” he was free to make; no different than the “choices” we make these days regarding our gender identity and whether or not we want to bear the children we conceive.

After all, it’s his body, his life. And because it’s his, he can do whatever he pleases with it. In this respect, the movie’s storyline is simply reflecting the prevailing cultural worldview.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Scripture presents a different viewpoint:

Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? … You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

  • 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20

Our Fit For The King perspective will always uphold this principle of God’s ownership, which is why we take time to focus on the fact that we are stewards – not owners – of our physical capacity. Most in the Christian community would agree that God’s ownership of our bodies precludes acts of self-determination such as the one romanticized in this screenplay. But before we become self-righteous with indignation over the storyline, we would do well to consider the hypocrisy of condemning the choice of the disabled character in this movie while excusing our own battles over body ownership and the pursuit of lifestyles that achieve the same result: self-destruction. Chronic diseases brought on by lifestyle choices are rampant in the church, and while most accelerate our passing, they all limit our financial and physical availability to be engaged in God’s work.

 

In contrast to the self-imposed limitations so many people of faith place on their lives because of their poor food choices and a lack of exercise stands the life and ministry of John Leonard. A church-planting missionary to Brazil, John was gunned down by drug lords following a church service in a slum. He and his wife Bev’s ministry was hurting their drug trade. John was rendered a near quadriplegic, and his continuing work as a missionary has required the sacrifices and efforts of many. Has his (and his family’s) crucible been too costly? Should he have exercised ownership of his broken body and spared everyone so much inconvenience? My daughter in-law Jeanne (Leonard) Bush would say “no.” An act of self-determination like that would have robbed her of her father (and hero) at 12 years old, to say nothing of what those benefiting from his continuing ministry would have lost. It was John’s understanding that he was a vessel for God’s purposes that allowed him to move beyond self-pity and self-indulgence to selfless availability.

jeannne bush's dad

As a Worship Pastor for the past 13 years, I’ve occasionally witnessed complete abandonment of this sort to maximize life stewardship. More often, I’ve seen the self-imposed limitations of personal choice; be it financial, intellectual or, increasingly, physical.  As there are countless ways in our culture we can limit our availability for Kingdom work, I am challenged daily that my life and body needs to be surrendered to the true owner. For where bodily destruction is concerned, I’m not certain that God sees a difference between that which comes through a lethal IV drip or via a knife and a fork.

Either way, the message to our Creator is the same Me before you.

Find out more about Fit For The King here