Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Physical Exercise

Jack LaLanne
Most of us don't get enough exercise in the Western world.  We often have sedentary jobs and don't move our bodies enough.  We sit all day long and then wonder why we're so stiff, aching, sick, and tired.

You've got to get your body moving. Use it or lose it.  If you are a disciple of Christ, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so you need to be sure and take good care of God's temple.

For many years now I've tried to keep a simple, calisthenic exercise routine each day.  I begin most days with about twenty to thirty minutes of stretches, push ups, jumping jacks, leg lifts, ab crunches, and stair climbing.  It's better than nothing, but I know I should do more than that.

I recently rediscovered Jack LaLanne, the late nutrition and fitness expert who became famous through his televised work out program, books, lectures, and fitness equipment.  Many of the pieces of equipment you see in the gym today were invented by him.  And he performed many amazing feats of strength throughout his life, right up until his old age.  I have a great deal of admiration for him.  On his seventieth birthday he towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary (1 mile), while handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents. He worked out for two hours a day right up until the day before he died in January 2011!  I remember watching him on TV when I was a little boy and following along with his exercises.  I teach my children to exercise every day.  And I've introduced them to LaLanne's program, which is still available online through his website.

He used to say that exercise is king and nutrition is queen.  He pointed out that many athletes can eat a lot of junk and get away with it, because they exercise so much.  But if they stop exercising, they become out of shape and fall into poor health.  It's true that if you exercise vigorously, your body will be more able to tolerate the stuff you put into it.

I agree with LaLanne that if you want to be healthy and feel well, you should put the right stuff into our bodies.  This combined with exercise is a great way to maintain the fitness of this body the good Lord has given you. It's wise to do a thirty minute workout at least three or four times a week.  If you can use weights, that's great.  Otherwise, at least do some vigorous exercises to get your blood flowing and muscles moving.

Avoiding Extremes
But your physical exercise should be Christ centered.  As with everything you do, it should be for the purpose of glorifying God, and you should be careful not to go to extremes.

Jesus didn't have a work out program.  But his lifestyle was one of regular physical activity.  He worked as a carpenter for most of his life and was probably in great shape from the hard manual labor he did.  Then during his ministry, he walked all over the country preaching the gospel in towns and villages. So a formal exercise program as we know it was unnecessary.

Physical fitness and building up your body can become an idol, and some people fall into this trap.  The apostle Paul said, "For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1Ti 4:8).  All that exercise is only of little benefit to you.  When you stand before the Lord one day after your earthly life has ended, it won't make any difference whether you were physically fit, if you lost your soul. Jesus said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mat 16:26).  We're not trying to save our lives but to lose them for Christ.  Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Mat 16:25)

The most important thing is to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.  This has value for all things. It will benefit you in the present life and the life to come.

Fit for the Life to Come
While I think LaLanne was a great nutrition and fitness expert, I do want to point out some erroneous things he taught.

In his earlier days in the fifties and sixties, he did speak about the Lord quite often.  He would always point out that "the good Lord" gave you this body and what an amazing gift it is from Him.  He would often end his program by giving the Aaronic blessing, "May the Lord bless you and keep you."  And he acknowledged the miracles of Jesus.

But he also said that "God helps those who help themselves,"  and this is not biblical.  There is no place in Scripture where you will find that saying.  Instead the Scripture teaches that it's when we're weak that He shows Himself strong.  It's when we stop trying to save ourselves and ask Jesus to do it that He is able to save us.

There is certainly a biblical basis for diligence, faithfulness, and exercising your faith with good deeds.  And often times when it comes to our health, the answer is to stop smoking, stop doing drugs, stop overeating, stop eating junk food, and start eating your vegetables.  These are practical things we can do to improve our physical condition.  And as LaLanne taught, you should pray fervently to God, asking Him to help you to make this difficult changes.

But LaLanne often stated that he had been "reborn" through attending a series of health lectures.  He had been a sugarholic until he was fifteen years old.  After hearing those lectures, he radically changed his life and began to eat right and exercise.  His life was turned around 180 degrees. And he would often give examples of others who experienced a radical life change through physical fitness, saying they had been born again. 

However, I need to point out here that there is only one way to be born again ,and it's not through physical fitness.  You can only be born again when you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, surrendering your life to Him and inviting Him to live in your heart.  In my own personal salvation testimony posted online, you can read about my experience of being born again.  When I cried out to Jesus to save me, and repented of my sin, He came and set me free from my harmful addictions that were destroying me.  He gave me a brand new life, and He'll do the same for you.  You can read more about Entering the Kingdom of God in another one of my blogs, and I encourage you to do that.

Unfortunately, in his latter years, LaLanne's teaching became heavily influenced by the New Age movement. For example, at age 91, in an interview with Dennis Hughes from Share Guide, he was asked about spirituality.  He repled: "You have to be pretty stupid to think there isn't a Supreme Being to put all this together. Do you think that man could ever make a heart that is indestructible? Do you think that man could make a calculator like your brain? Do you think that man could ever make a machine that the only way you could hurt it is don't use it? Could man make a machine that in every 90 days practically every cell changes? Think about this. Look at all the creatures, the snakes, the worms and the birds, and the entire universe and everything that goes on. Don't you think there is a universal power, that there is some Supreme Being that put this all together? You don't have to call it God or Jesus. That's religious humbug to a lot of people, but you've gotta believe that nature and spiritual things surround us. That is what put us here! I thank the universe for that every day of my life."

When he said you don't have to call the Supreme Being God or Jesus, he's wrong.  When he said he "thanks the universe every day," that's not the same man I remember from his early days on television, and it's simply not Scriptural.  The Bible tells us that God made the world and all that is in it (Jn 1:1-3). He made the sun, moon, stars and the entire universe.  All things came into being through Him.  And He loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that all who would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).  Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (Joh 14:6). There is no other way to God, except through Jesus Christ.

Putting it All Together
So the priority should be your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Check your heart and make sure you are listening to the Lord's voice, obeying His commandments, and living a godly life.  Be sure you are feeding daily on His Word, the Bible.  Fasting is one of the disciplines that you can learn to incorporate into your life.  And getting plenty of rest each week is another biblical key.  Those need to come first.  Without them you'll end up malnourished and sick.

In addition to these spiritual priorities, you should try to get regular exercise and good nutrition by drinking lots of clean water and eating plenty of whole foods like fresh vegetables, fish, poultry, fresh fruits, and whole grains. In our family, we've cut out all dairy from our diet, along with the other white poisons, and we're feeling much better for it.  These are some of the keys I have found to experiencing health and wellness the way God intended it for you.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.

Author's note: This post is part of a series.  If you enjoyed it, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my blog directory at "Writing for the Master."  The views expressed in this blog are my personal opinions based on my own research, and do not necessarily represent the views of Doulos Missions International.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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