Bootcamps around Edmond have become cool. What once was something to avoid at all cost – a military boot camp, reserved only for the best of the best – the few, the proud, the Marines – has somehow become in vogue for soccer moms and even accountants. I find two kinds of people who participate in these boot camps – talkers and doers. You may have experienced this yourself. The talkers buy outfits for the bootcamp, enroll their friends in the bootcamp, have after-bootcamp lattes, and wear t-shirts that say, “I Survived So-and-So’s Bootcamp.” They almost always look the way they did before they started the bootcamp. Thus, they have to wear the shirt.

But, I have also noticed people who simply show up, do the work, watch what they eat after their strenuous workout, drink a lot of water, I mean a LOT of water, and don’t talk much. They don’t have to… because they look great! People come up to them and say, “Wow! You look amazing.” “How did you do it?” “What’s your secret?” “Did you cut your hair?”

And they might answer, “I found a great trainer.” “The trainer really gets me and helped me understand what I could do to get stronger and feel better. It makes a wonderful difference in my life.” This is when most people ask, “Who do you go to?” “What’s the cost?” “Can I get in?” “If so, when can I start?”

In Spiritual Bootcamp, the answers are “Jesus,” “Everything,” “Absolutely – I was hoping you would ask!” and “You can start today!” 2017 is the right time for a “Spiritual Bootcamp.” Today is the perfect time to be intentional with prayer, giving to those in need, and fasting in order to grow closer to God.

Unfortunately since at least first century Judaism, people have struggled to keep God (rather than folks around us) as the object or focus of our devotion. Acts of piety (prayer, almsgiving, fasting) areimportant–not to make us look important, but as means to let God transform us, and through us, the world. This is easier said than done. It is a long-standing battle and a choice, “Will I live for the affirmation and applause of human beings, or the ‘reward’ of being fully accepted and loved by God?”

Jesus our trainer instructs us,“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward … And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  (Matthew 6 New Revised Standard Version).

As we begin our training inwardly, let’s make sure that we act unremarkably outwardly. Otherwise, we may find that we will continue to live harried, chaotic lives, trying to wear the right t-shirt, with the right name on it, with the right people, to impress or be admired by others. We can do that, and yes there is a reward for it. But it is nothing compared to the peace, depth, and true love available to us all along through God’s invisible and everlasting Spirit. In the end, Jesus says the things we think are important in this world like clothes get eaten by moths and gold gets stolen out from under us. So, live for something that really lasts–your relationship to an everlasting God who loves you.

Happy training!
Pastor Mark

Dr. Mark Foster

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