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Monday, August 07, 2006

Spiritual Benchpress

On the flight back from BNYC, I sat next to "Jerry." As Jerry and I continued to talk, he mentioned that he played offensive line for Long Beach State University. Clearly, he noticed my great physique [/sarcasm], and we began to talk his strength regimen. Jerry mentioned that he eventually bench pressed over 405 pounds. As we continued to talk, he mentioned he had no use for steroids or any chemical help.

How ever does a person get to being able to bench 405 pounds?

Jerry explained it was his strength and conditioning coach. "He believed if you never felt it, you'd never lift it."

(There was an awkward pause as I wondered what Jerry meant, and he wondered how someone as buff as me [/2nd sarcastic comment] didn't already know what he meant.)

Jerry went on to explain. Even though his maximum lift was only 385 pounds, shortly after arriving on LBSU campus, the strength coach had him try 405. Jerry said he thought his chest was going to tear. He thought his arms were going to be crushed under the enormous weight. The first several times he "lifted" 405, the spotters did all the work, Jerry arms just traveling on for the ride. However, after a couple of weeks, he noticed he was doing more and more of the work, until he finally even moved beyond 405. He wrapped up the explanation by telling me, "Had I never felt 405 on the bar, there's no way I ever would have lifted it."

Weighty Theology

Jerry's weight lifting seemed to correlate with other things I had been thinking. Do we avoid certain doctrinal issues or teachings because we are convinced "the people" can't handle it? Have we focused so much on our audience, that we don't really push the congregation? Is it possible that one reason teens walk away when they get to college is because they enter college with the same spiritual strength they had in third grade?

I know I experienced this phenomenon in Greek class. The author of the text book referred to it as "the fog." I remember working through a chapter in the book and feeling like I didn't retain a thing. I would feel so frustrated that the professor would move on, even though I felt the entire class did not understand a bit. However, a week or two later, "the fog" would lift, and you suddenly realized you understood after all. If the professor has stopped, and tried to make sure we were all on board, I seriously wonder if the fog ever would have lifted.
    What is the nature of the cross?
    Why is penal substitutionary atonement such a big deal?
    What about the doctrines of grace?
    What about people who've never heard the name of Jesus?
These questions, and many many more like them, are "controversial" questions or too deep for many people to tackle. Pastors, fearful of being to heady or not connecting with their congregation, tend to avoid these issues then. Then, questions that children used to learn the answers to, are now questions adults still haven't had answered. But we as pastors think they aren't ready (and often they tell us they aren't ready) so the congregation continues to sit...

unable to do the heavy lifting.


  • At 9:24 AM, Blogger Brad said…

    Very true.

  • At 9:32 AM, Blogger Brad said…

    Sorry to intrude, but this link is quite pertinent to some of the recent discussions appearing on this blog.


    Look at the most recent post, "Theological misleadership and its fruit"

  • At 10:17 AM, Anonymous mcgriff said…

    Amen and Amen Brother!!! That is the type of church I want to attend. I long to be challenged week in and week out by the pure meat of the word. A church that takes faith and theology seriously and doesn't treat church as a christian social gathering.

    I don't say that boasting in myself. I say that as an encouragement to yourself and other Pastors who read your blog. Don't give up the fight. There are those of us out there who long for this type of teaching. Please, continue to fight the fight.

  • At 11:34 AM, Blogger Jeff said…

    Amen!! We are told in Hebrews to move beyond the milk and get to solid food in order to grow. Too often sermons are topical based and not true exigetical, expository teaching of God's Word...I am with McGriff, I too long to be challenged week in and week out... Yeah, the sermons may go over my head but like you said about the fog, it will lift after time and i will understand...

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger David said…

    I feel this way a lot of times with Remix, like no one is soaking in anything we're talking about. Our next study is going to be...ambitious, and I've been having thoughts of, "No one is going to get the vision for this", but This post is encouraging. It seems like the things you want people to get out of a study are never the things they actually get, and yet growth still occurs in unexpected ways.

  • At 8:55 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i don't think we strive to lose people, david, and i know you're not saying that.

    i think the key is expository teaching/preaching. you are doing that well by walking through habakkuk. you deal with the issues as they come up in the text, and if the text calls for it, i don't believe it's our privilege to decide to ignore it because people can't handle it.

    i'm anxious to hear your ambitious study that is next. coffee? (of course, by that, i mean are you would get coffee while i got something that actually tasted good, but of course costs much more.)

  • At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm ready to start lifting!!! lg

  • At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I agree with you. Too much of the gospel has become a convenience message. I agree that the depths of theology are not served up to our adults OR children. HOWEVER, may I add another reason our children walk away? Sometimes (maybe often)they do not see it at church or more importantly, in the home. Teach of Christ's compassion on our souls, but help our little ones and teens to see it in US (maybe sponsering a child thru World Vision or something and of course the way we treat one another)and also at an early age, on thru teens to be a 'practioner' of the same by giving their pennies, learning to show compassion on bro's and sis's, etc.

    And what has more value in OUR lives...memorizing, meditating, and sharing God's Word with one another? Or TV (including sports--OUCH! did I say that?) and extracurricular events? I've always been amazed at how many people show their kids that sports are more important than church (We'll miss your game if we go to church and then there will be bad consequences...benched!). Anyway, my point IS teach theology from the pulpit BUT help us to understand HOW it affects our daily lives or else we become Pharisees!

    An imperfect saint who needs a lot of help...Mom

  • At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The scribes and Pharisees thought they were taching and modeling the deep detail of the law. Jesus blasted them in Matthew for omitting what the King James ironically calls the "weightier" matters of the law. Jesus went on to say that those matters have to do with justice, mercy and faithfulness.

    While we are not necessarily to neglect topics such as how believers are to effectively judge one another, the preponderance of teaching shold be on the royal or summary law which is loving Christ and loving others. Frankly, it is much easier to teach the believer the academic detail of doctrine and call it spiritual benchpress activity than it is to teach the more weighty topics of growing in intimacy with Christ and allowing Him to live out His life through us in our daily walk.

  • At 7:57 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    "Frankly, it is much easier to teach the believer the academic detail of doctrine and call it spiritual benchpress activity than it is to teach the more weighty topics of growing in intimacy with Christ and allowing Him to live out His life through us in our daily walk."

    Yet easiest of all is to criticize, and associate someone with pharisees all while hiding behind the shield of anonymity.

  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Stop fussing with anonymous gainsayers and comment on my blog.


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