Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You

It’s fall … did you feel the drop in the temperature this morning. With the first hint of cool morning air we feel change on its way. One of the changes that comes to people each fall is the desire to get into better shape. This week we are all going to do just that. It is my hope that you will commit to doing a few spiritual exercises with me over the next 10 weeks so we can all become more spiritually fit. That’s right! It’s time to hit the track again and lose those comfortable pounds we have gained from slacking off a little on things during the summer. Come on, you can do it! I’ll be right here with you to walk you through each exercise. You will begin to see progress immediately and in just a little while you will look into the mirror and see the new you and be so glad you put a little effort into getting into better shape.  
 Opening Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:8 Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. (NLT)  Another translation of this scripture begins: “Bodily exercise profits little”. When I read this my usual mental response is that I desperately need even the little bit of profit exercise might bring me. This is true for most of us. Even if exercise only profits us a very little, the very little it profits is better than the nothing we get if we don’t exercise.  I have often said that the reason I don’t exercise more is because it makes me tired. Of course I say this to poke fun at the simple truths we all face in life. Believe me, looking better as you mature through the ages and stages of life is not an easy thing. If it were easy we would all be in the shape we want to be in instead of the shape we are in.  To keep physically fit is work and takes commitment, even when we may not feel like working out. But, go one day, one week, one month or a year without exercise and you know what happens. In fact, go long enough and you won’t even miss it. The weaker you get the less energy and motivation you possess to begin a program that will make you stronger and healthier … these are the facts of life.  Spiritual fitness follows the same path as does physical fitness … it’s work. However, just as with physical fitness, once you are established in a good spiritual regimen and begin to see progress, you can get addicted to it and just don’t feel complete unless you spend that dedicated time in the word and prayer. Spiritual fitness is its own reward and gives a person added protection from all kinds of ailments and injuries which readily plague other, weaker believers.  The more spiritually fit a person becomes the more Godly they are. And, Godliness carries with it a promise of blessings and rewards in this life as well as in the next. Who would not want to be more Godly? That’s like asking the question, who would not want to be more healthy? Of course the answer is, everyone wants to be more Godly.  What if I told you that you could become spiritually fit in only ten weeks? What if I told you that in ten weeks you could change your whole approach to life and become a new you, the you God wants you to be? Well I am saying just that!  Ten weeks are going to come and go anyway and in just ten short weeks you can become more spiritually fit than you have ever been in your life. Take this challenge and make a commitment that you are going to get with this program, attend the classes, participate in the exercises and get that spiritual edge you’ve always wanted.  Ok, a new you begins right now! Are you ready? Open the Book of Life with me and let’s start making progress.  Genesis 37 NKJV  Just as our physical body, which we can see, depends on things we can see such as, bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood and oxygen for life and strength, our spirits, which we cannot see, depends on those things we cannot see for its health and strength. Thoughts, attitudes, choices, faith, feelings, desires, decisions, perspectives and character qualities are but some of the invisible things which go into the mix of what makes a person Godly and spiritually fit.  The Word of God and its untapped resources holds the key to transforming our lives into the image of God. When we approach the Word and embrace it by faith its transforming power is released to change us, much like another sit-up or chin-up or another mile will do for our physical reshaping.  God wrote the book on spiritual fitness and the whole Bible serves as a record of testimonies of both winners and losers in the battle of life. Those who worked God’s program are always the winners, those who did not – the losers.  This spiritual fitness program, ten weeks to a new you, will use one of these winners from the Bible as a role model for our success. The winner I am talking about does not start out a winner. When we first meet our winner he is one of those 98 pound weaklings, living in a sheltered existence, a tattle-tale, surrounded by strong type-A personalities who constantly make fun of him and push him around something terrible. But … he does not stay a 98 pound weakling spiritually, or physically for that matter, … let’s meet him and see where he begins. Then during these next ten weeks we are going to follow his training course and watch him become a real heavy weight champion of the whole known world.  Genesis 37 1 ¶ Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. 5 ¶ Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 "There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." 8 And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.  Joseph’s new day began with a challenge from God. In order for Joseph to become what God wanted him to become and be strong enough to conquer life’s problems and be a winner, Joseph was going to have to learn some things.  The first exercise God gave Joseph was a stretching exercise. God gave Joseph a dream … not just any dream … but an impossible dream … a dream of a better day, a greater day, an amazing day!  God made Joseph imagine himself as a winner. God had to plant the seed of a winner in Joseph while Joseph was sleeping. Why? Perhaps because in Joseph’s waking world, the world he was used to seeing and hearing every day, Joseph saw himself as small, young, insignificant, unaccepted, put down, made fun of, limited, weak and unable to compete, last in line … a loser …  In order for Joseph to have a chance of becoming what God saw in Joseph, God was going to have to change Joseph’s self image!  That’s what a dream does! It’s a self image booster!  A dream gives a person a glimpse of a better day, a better future … sure it’s something you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t prove … but it’s those invisible things which make the spirit stronger and more like God.  Joseph learned to dream and learned the power of a dream … not just any dream, but the dream God gave him.  Only God can give a true dream. But, good news, God gives a true dream to everyone who wants one, everyone who needs one, and everyone who asks for one.  God sees you and your potential differently than you may see yourself. If you are going to take advantage of these next ten weeks and develop a more spiritually fit you, a more Godly you, then you are going to have to do some stretching exercises.  You are going to need to open your mind and your heart to imagine a new you … to see a changed you … to see this invisible goal which will hold you steady on course until you win. You are going to have to stretch! A dream will help you stretch.  What would a better day look like for you? What would be God’s best for you and your best for God? What would that look like? Begin stretching yourself as we continue … there are still two more stretching exercises to learn in week one.  The second exercise necessary to get Joseph’s life change off to the right start was also a stretching exercise. Joseph woke up one morning and realized that he had dreamed an amazing dream. The dream evidently excited him and he naturally became a bit pre-occupied with the dream and the potential effects of that dream.  The dream was given by God to Joseph’s spirit while Joseph was unconscious of what was going on. However, when Joseph woke up he immediately captured this image in his mind and began to consider each detail, careful not to forget anything.  This process is a simple mental exercise aimed at broadening the thoughts and expanding the imagination. Joseph was no doubt stretching the possibilities and considering the implications of such a dream. He gave time to these considerations and meditated on them rehearsing them over and over in his mind.  We are told that meditation, which is basically deep consideration or focused mental energies, is the best way to counsel yourself, convince yourself, relieve stress and strengthen the mind. We often accept and set our course with determination as we are left alone to deeply consider those things which are troubling the mind.  Our mind gets troubled on purpose. Thoughts vie for time … important thoughts press us, demanding that we consider them and give them priority so decisions which must be made, can be made before it is too late. This is what was happing to Joseph.  Meditation allows us time to capture the imagination, to handle the dream, to stretch our potential. It is in the process of meditation that we come to own the dream, embrace the possibility and develop our winning attitude. This is where we gain and grow our faith.  The last exercise we will learn in week one is the power of a spoken word. God gave Joseph a dream, Joseph accepted and embraced the dream and finally it was for the dream to be born.  So many dreams are never birthed due to the lack of one essential element necessary in the invisible world of faith. Faith demands declaration! Even God, once He had dreamed and meditated on all of the possibilities of a new and better earth, did not begin to realize change until He made His declaration and spoke, “Let there be light!”, and it was so. This is the first principle God teaches us about Him and about life … the power of the spoken word!  This is where things begin to happen. This is where we first begin to see change, both in us and things around us. This is where the dream gets out of our head, out of our heart and into the world. We breathe life into the dreams of God when we speak them in faith. Our meditation is where we build faith and our faith filled confession begins to make life happen.  So, let me bring all of this into perspective for week one … here are the exercises you need to do this week in order to take advantage of this program and begin to get yourself spiritually fit.  1. Dream * Stretch * Get an image of a spiritually fit you * Ask God to give you that dream * God’s Word is filled with dream seeds * Make sure you have God’s dream for you … * God won’t mind confirming His dream 2. Meditate * Develop that new self image in your mind * Begin to see yourself as God needs you * Meditate on the new you Don’t allow yourself to think otherwise * Take your thoughts captive * Cast down every contrary imagination * Keep stretching the possibilities * Build your faith 3. Declare * Pull the trigger and start the race * Begin your regimen of confession * Bring your dream to life * Daily breathe life into the new you * Speak your dream  Be ready, those closest to you may attempt to rain on your parade or make fun of you, but don’t let them get the best of you … keep stretching! And I will see you back in class next week.