Saturday, March 16, 2013

Every Body Matters - Gary Thomas

How do you write a concise book review of a book which rocked your world? My journey to freedom began with a  Daniel Fast, during that time I was reading this book which provided me with the "why" - the "want to" of striving for freedom from food addiction. After the fast, I discovered  Eat to Live which provided the "how" of the results I was seeing.  I recommend Every Body Matters for those who want to explore the connection between spirituality/spiritual formation and their current physical condition.  I will shortly review Made to Crave. This book does the same as Made to Crave for those who are looking for more scripture and a less "female" read. Gary Thomas has written many books on spiritual formation and how it intersects with our daily life (marriage, family). He now makes the connection between how our spiritual worship should impact our care of our physical bodies. In short, Gary Thomas calls us to be "fully alive in all aspects of being human." (Ch 10) I found his writing to be a bit dry in places....but the content was great.

For the Quick Low Down Amazon: "Few pastors or Christian writers have dared to approach the subject of how proper eating and an active lifestyle can affect how we serve God. Author Gary Thomas does just that. And he reaches all the way back to the apostle Paul, who wrote that we need to prime our bodies to become , 'an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.' To illustrate the body/soul correlation, Thomas presents engaging and diverse stories....In every instance, Thomas makes a direct connection between the physical challenge and it's spiritual consequence. This book is a must read for anyone seeking new and  motivation for strengthening their bodies and fortifying their souls."

Quotes for those interested in a bit more: 
Chapter One - Souls of Silver
"The reason I want to get in shape then, the reason I long for God's church to get in shape, is not to impress anyone, not to make others feel inferior, not to demonstrate my own personal discipline and self-control. God forbid! On the contrary it is to become, as Paul writes, 'instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." 
Our motivation isn't being accepted by God, or cultivating His favor...its about wanting to run the race with intense focus, purpose and passion. 
(My choices) weren't damning me, but they were making me less useful and less prepared to do any good work. 
Christians who don't take their health seriously don't take their mission seriously.  
Understanding, really LIVING the concept that my body is an instrument of worship and service for God is giving me renewed motivation to take better care of it in the face of my cravings and laziness.

 Chapter Two -Heads Without Bodies 
Many Christians equate bodily sins (I Thess 5:23, 2 Cor 7:1, I Thess 4:4, I cor 6:20) with sexual sins...If they're not sinning sexually, they believe these verse don't apply to them. The contemporary age of the church is the only generation that has believed this.
He follows this with some interesting church history and quotes from the "founding fathers". Good stuff.

By God's design  we are a people with souls who desperately yearn for intimacy with God - people whose souls reside in bodies that can hinder or help this pursuit. Which will it be?  
Chapter Three - Your Strength Will Equal Your days
Protecting your health is the same thing as protecting the vehicle through which God wants to change the world. Is there a greater loss in this world than millions of spirit-renewed believers digging premature graves with a knife, fork & spoon? 
I Cor 6:19 - 20 week belief produces weak commitment. 
When He redeemed us, He didn't just redeem our souls; He redeemed our bodies and claims them for His use as well. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.....what if exercise and discipline in eating isn't as much about physical health as about honoring the God who made us?
 It's a question of stewardship. This chapter impacted me...of course this is the very week Stacia began saying to me, "Mom, I want you to be around to teach my children PCOC."
I don't want selfishness to steal a single minute away from those I love or from those I'm called to serve. 
Chapter Four - Healthy Humiliation 
God does not want food to replace the role He longs to have in my life.
Using food like some might use lust is displeasing to God and destructive to me.
There is a subtle and dangerous spiritual mechanism that arises when we always obey our hunger. It becomes a veritable steering wheel in Satan's hands. He can turn us in any direction he wants, and we become accustomed to letting this one sensation rule us. It affects what we eat, when we eat and how we eat. It may take precedence over other things in our lives.  
 Fighting excess and laziness hasn't led me to legalism; it has led me to deeper empathy (of others' struggle with sin).....confronting excessive indulgent eating was almost like taking spiritual antibiotics in that it seemed to cut the feet out from under other demands...
 Physical fitness offered to God, surrendered to God, pursued in cooperation with God has enormous spiritual, emotional and physical benefits.
Chapter Five - It's Not a Fair Fight
 Food producers have found just the right mixture of fat, sugar and salt to all but addict us to certain kinds of foods....refined food simply melts in the mouth. 
Good health will require us to confront and resist the physical  spiritual and cultural enticements that war against us. 
Chapter Six - Is Being Overweight a Sin? 
Gary uses MANY verses in this chapter and fleshes out his concept well.
Sin can lead us to become overweight, but being overweight is not a sin.
He also quotes from many church fathers at this point....John Climacus, Francois Fenelon, John Wesley....

 I go to war against glutton and indulgence, not because I want God to love me more, but because God, who already loves me perfectly, warms me that gluttony and excess are my enemies - regardless of how good they may sometimes feel.
Chapter Seven - Socially Contagious
This is the spiritual struggle toward physical fitness: The initial sacrifice seems so great compared to the minuscule immediate benefits, while the negative consequences seem relatively minor compared to the instant enjoyment of overeating and ignoring exercise.  
Chapter Eight - The Silent Murderer
Laziness is the great spiritual assassin of our time.
 Sloth is therefore as damning as open rebellion...If we coddle laziness in one area of our lives, we'll succumb to it in other areas too. - Jonathan Edwards
Cultivating discipline in physical fitness can make us more apt to be disciplined in spiritual fitness.
Spiritual laziness leads to resentment; spiritual diligence spawns insight and transformation from the exact same events.  
Chapter Nine - Let's Get Physical 
He begins the chapter by building a strong case for regular exercise.  You've heard it all before I'm sure.
Harvard study shows obesity may soon surpass tobacco as the number one cause of cancer deaths
Those who avoid suffering by sinner, sin themselves into worse sufferings. Puritan Ralph Venning
(Church is to be a place of healing acceptance) Can't we also find a way to value physical fitness...shouldn't God's people - given our belief in God as the creator of our bodies, our acceptance of the call to be good stewards of everything God has given us, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit within i us - be leading the charge in this contemporary battle? 
Chapter Ten - Muscular Christianity

This was a fascinating chapter exploring a part of church history I'd heard little of before: muscular Christianity. For instance, James Naismith invented the game of basketball as a means to evangelize people at morality and Christian values. The YMCA story fits into this chapter as well.
Churches began to discover that trying to amuse boys or creating a "goody-goody, wishy-washy, ultra feminine atmosphere" didn't appeal to young men, who needed to have their "soldier-like instincts" awakened on behalf o f Christ's Kingdom. (WE seem to have gone back to wishy-washy?)
Soft people who frequently complain bout the smallest annoyances, who give in to laziness and excess, who expect others to  work so that they can rest, who collapse into passive entertainment instead of active exercise - these are souls custom-made to become all but irrelevant in Kingdom Warfare. They are no threat to anyone - least of all to Satan. 
 Chapter 11 - The 300 lb Pastor: Changing Church Culture
...I needed to honor God with all my heart, all my soul, ally my mind, and also all my body. 
How loving is it to allow someone to barely scrape by when God is offering truly abundant life? ...We are called to love everyone, but love doesn't mean making others feel comfortable, secure and accepted by God in the midst of their rebellion.
If we value health and if we desire to honor God with our bodies, we can learn to exercise together as well as eat together.

Chapter Twelve - Stronger Shoulders
....getting physically fit can help us face spiritual and relational challenges. It won't make those challenges go away, but it can give us stronger shoulders to face them.
The spiritual disciplines are the place to start, but their effectiveness is magnified when joined with physical discipline. The enduring life is a solid life built over time and physical training plays into this. 
Each day provides a multitude of ways to improve the way we shelter the Holy Spirit of God.  
Chapter Thirteen - Purely Practical 
Lots of info here
Its that initial breaking out of the pattern that takes the most effort. Breaking any pattern feels uncomfortable. This is why most of will need to develop a new relationship with hunger pangs and daily exercise.
Harvard study shows each hour spent exercising adds 2 hours to a person's life expectancy
Getting fit isn't about earning God's love but about being set free by God's love.

Chapter Fourteen - Ongoing Battle Against Sin 
This chapter focus' on taking an active view in pursuing holiness. It's not legalistic...but he does make a case that we are called to battle sin and not simply passively expect holiness to descend on us. I see this as the difference between "positional holiness" and "practical holiness."  Too hard to pull quotes out of their context in this chapter. I fear it would give you an incorrect feel for the tone of the chapter.

Chapter Fifteen - The Last Christian 
I don't believe that riding a bike for a hundred miles, swimming across a lake, or running a marathon counts as "carrying our cross,' but getting in shape can help us build souls willing to carry a cross. 
People who love God attempt great things for Him. J.I. Packer
If God be your partner, let your plans be large. Dwight Moody 
You can read more about  my journey at the "Following to Freedom" tab above. 


Unknown said...

I am reading Made To Crave right now with a dear sweet sister in the Lord and I am not getting that deep understanding. Honestly it feels fluffy. ;)
I am going to get this book. It seems hard hitting and deep.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

This was not as "easy" as a read...but I stuck it out and he really does make his points well. LOL I found I got more out of MTC after reading and working through things from THIS view point first. LOL

For ME - I need to go an ongoing focus....and so I'll probably make it through all the Christian "Bible studies" books on healthy eating before I'm done. LOL

Anonymous said...

good book review mom t.