Stephen McAlpine: Exile, Evangelism and Ebed-Melech

Steven McAlpine brings glimmers of hope for the church in an age of increasing hostility.

Exile, Evangelism and Ebed-Melech

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While much of the talk is of bunkering down in the face of a coming cultural exile for the traditional church, we might just be in for a surprising gospel harvest at the same time.

Not a harvest instead of exile.

Nor in spite of.

But because of.

Amidst the scandals of rotten in churches that say one thing and do another; amidst the scandalon of the gospel proving to be too much for denominations seeking culture relevance, there’s a growing and genuine interest in the gospel that is translating to people actually becoming Christian.

And they’re not doing so because it’s convenient, or because all their friends are rushing to sign up and they’re getting caught in the hype, or because the media has a love-in with the church.  In fact it’s quite the opposite. To remain a Christian today is quite a challenge in the West.  To become one, well that’s another thing altogether.

Yet that is what I am seeing.  That’s what our network at Providence is seeing, as Rory Shiner reports on The Gospel Coalition site.

In our small church alone we have seen several people become Christian this past few months; one a long time church attendee who was not converted. Another one who was saved out of the blue from an atheist background after starting out on a spiritual search through reading the book of Numbers of all things!

And about five or six young people asking us for baptism.  And all in the face of a peer group outside the church that is increasingly suspicious – hostile even – towards their faith.

Yes I do think we’re headed towards cultural exile at a rate of knots.  Yes I do think that the Benedict Option is a good long term strategy.  But in the midst of all of that God is still saving people, still carrying out his intentions to bless the whole world through the covenant made with Abraham and completed in Christ.

It reminds me of the story of Ebed-Melech in the dark, desperate days of exile and ruin for Jerusalem.  Babylon is in the process of dismantling the city, the temple and God’s people.  More than that, it seems like God is in the process of dismantling His promises to bless Israel and the whole world through her.

And Jeremiah, the weeping, mournful prophet who vainly calls God’s people to turn from their desperate attempts to find security in anyone but God in the midst of it all, is shunned and disdained.  Eventually he’s thrown into a well.  Left to die.

And then we read this in Jeremiah 38:

When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate—  Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king,  “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.”  Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take thirty men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”  So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe in the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes.  Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. 13 Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

Did you get the idea that Ebed-Melech was an Ethiopian?  It reminds us three times.  Oh, and a eunuch as well.  He’s not ticking too many of the boxes is he?

Yet right at the nadir of Israel’s life, God, through this Ethiopian eunuch, points to the fact that His salvation purposes of blessing the whole world through Abraham’s descendants are still at work.

Someone not of Israel living as a true Israelite, and indeed saving an Israelite from certain death from the hands of unregenerate Israel.

A prototype Good Samaritan perhaps, while Jeremiah’s countrymen not only walk by on the other side, but inflict his wounds.

And  a precursor to another Ethiopian eunuch on the other side of the cross, who hears the good news about Jesus from Philip the evangelist, even in the midst of persecution of God’s people by faithless Jerusalem leaders once again.

In Jeremiah 39, when things have gotten worse in the capital, we read this:

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the guard:  “Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the Lord, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.  For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the Lord.’”

Here is a true Israelite, as Paul would say in Romans 6.  One circumcised of heart, not just body.   Ebed- Melech finds salvation in God, even as the city is about the be handed over to the Babylonians one final time, and exile proper kicks in.

It’s a gospel moment.  Ebed-Melech is not commended by God for taking Jeremiah out of the well, but for trusting in the LORD.  It was his trust in the LORD, in fact, that led him to taking Jeremiah out of the well.  Here is a picture – albeit a small, fractured picture, of the nations putting their trust in Israel’s God, even in horrendous times, with a faltering witness from Israel, and a looming exile in Babylon.

So both my experience and my theology are demonstrating that something good is going on, not instead of something difficult (a cultural exile will indeed be hard for many Christians), not in spite of something difficult (as if this is pattern is an upset for the books), but because of it of it.

We’ve talked a lot about how God is doing a purifying work in these hard, secular times, burning off some of the dross.  We’ve talked about how this thing has not bottomed out, and that there’s still a falling away to come for many who love the praise of humans more than the praise of God.  We’ve talked about how some of our church growth is simply because people are swimming away from sinking life boats and scrambling on to ours.

And that’s all true.

But at the same time God appears to be taking away, He’s also adding.  Adding people to His kingdom His way.  And many of them are looking at the difficulties that the gospel will bring to their lives, and deciding that for the joy set before them it will be worth it.

I’m looking forward to meeting Ebed-Melech in the new creation. For he is a prototype of all Gentiles such as I, who although not “cut off” physically, were indeed cut off spiritually from the hope of God, but who through Christ are being brought in at a surprisingly healthy rate of knots, despite our present cultural exilic circumstances.

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Brian Houston- Apostle

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The announcement last week that Brian Houston was withdrawing his Hillsong church network from the Australian Christian Churches denomination cane as a surprise to people on the outside, but it was inevitable.

pastor-brian-houston-89Pastor Brian Houston is a very successful church leader and founder of the original Hillsong megachurch. For a number of years he also served as state and national president of the ACC. Many ACC churches, large and small, have sought to emulate the style and success of Hillsong.

Meanwhile, Hillsong has planted churches around the world and has changed from being an Australian church with overseas churches to being a globally based organisation in its own right.

The movements have parted ways, on respectful and friendly terms. Hillsong will continue to relate to the ACC, but it is not clear how that relationship will progress.

Here are the reasons why I believe that Brian Houston is a true apostle:

  1. He has a big vision, always looking for the next frontier. National borders and locations do not deter him.
  2. He is a strong leader, knowing exactly what he wants from the people who work with him.
  3. He is not afraid to innovate and try new things.
  4. He is a true father in the faith. He has trained and raised up leaders whom he mentors and sends out. Looking at the pastors who are a part of the Hillsong network, many of them are people who have been a part of the Hillsong mission for many years, trained under Brian Houston and moulded by him.
  5. Although there is a strong corporate feeling to the Hillsong structure, it is also highly relational. When I have been to Hillsong, which hasn’t been for some years now, it has always struck me the love and affection which the leaders have for one another.

I believe that the new Hillsong denomination is a part of the restructuring that the Holy Spirit is bringing to the church. Authority is increasingly flowing through personal relationships rather than man-made structures. We still need the structures but it is the father and son relationships that will increasingly mark the church of the 21st century.

David Mathis: Why Do Christians Fast?

Why Do Christians Fast?

WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS

Article by David Mathis

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

 

At no place, in all his thirteen letters, does the apostle Paul command Christians to fast. Neither does Peter in his. Or John. Or any other book in the New Testament.

And yet, for two thousand years, Christians have fasted. One expression, among others, of healthy, vibrant Christians and churches has been the practice of fasting. However much it may seem to be a lost art today, fasting has endured, for two millennia, as a means of Christ’s ongoing grace for his church.

Why, then, if Christians, unlike Muslims, are not commanded to fast, do we still fast? First of all, Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, is plain enough. In addition to his own example (Matthew 4:2), and while not directly commanding his followers to fast, Jesus gave instructions for “when you fast,” not “if” (Matthew 6:16–17). More than that, in speaking about what his followers would do after his departure, he says, “then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15; also Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35). Again not a command, but a powerful promise from our Savior’s lips that we’d be foolish to ignore.

Early Christians Fasted

Beyond Jesus’s own words, we find a pattern of fasting as the early church grows and multiplies in the book of Acts. In one of the most pivotal junctures in the story, the leaders in Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting” to seek God’s guidance at a key moment in their church life (Acts 13:2–3). While they were doing so, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Then “after fasting (again) and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).

Then Acts 14 provides us with a pattern of prayer and fasting “in every church.” As Paul and Barnabas revisited the cities in which they had made new converts on their first missionary journey, they “appointed elders for them in every church” and “with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23).

 

Why God’s People Fast

Overall, the New Testament may have little to say about fasting, but what it does say is important. And in what it doesn’t say, it leans heavily on the Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures do not speak the final word on fasting, but they are vital in preparing us to hear the final word from Christ. I count more than 25 mentions of fasting in the Old Testament, but it might be most helpful to look at three groups of passages with one common thread.

 

Inward: To Express Repentance

The first, most common, and perhaps most fundamental type of fast expresses repentance. Think of it as “inward.” God’s people realise their sin — typically not small indiscretions or lapses in judgment, but deep and prolonged rebellion — and come seeking his forgiveness.

For instance, in 1 Samuel 7, God’s people become freshly aware of their past and present idolatries (and God’s hand of discipline). They want to return to the Lord and newly “direct [their] heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). They assemble, under Samuel’s leadership, fast as a demonstration of their repentance, and confess, “We have sinned against the Lord” (1 Samuel 7:6). Similarly, in 1 Kings 21, even though king Ahab “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25), he “humbled himself” with fasting when confronted by the prophet Elijah — and God was pleased to delay impending disaster, even for such an evil king (1 Kings 21:29).

In Nehemiah 9, God’s people “assembled with fasting and in sackcloth” to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness (Nehemiah 9:1–2). In Daniel 9, the prophet realizes the time for the end of the exile has come. Daniel records, “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). He “prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 9:4) for the sins of God’s people, in hopes of restoration. So also, Joel 1:14 and 2:12 call for fasts of repentance, to return to God from sin — as in Nineveh when the people believe the message Jonah reluctantly delivers. “They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).

Old Testament saints often expressed an “inward” heart of repentance to God not only in words but with the exclamation point of fasting. Such fasts did not earn his forgiveness but demonstrated the genuineness of their contrition.

 

Outward: To Grieve Hard Providences

But fasting not only expresses repentance. On many occasions, it gives voice to mourning, grieving, or lamenting difficult providences. The seam that holds together 1 and 2 Samuel is the death of Saul and the nation’s ensuing grief. First Samuel ends with a seven-day fast of mourning for Saul (1 Samuel 31:13; also 1 Chronicles 10:12). As 2 Samuel begins, and news reaches David and his men, “they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword” (2 Samuel 1:12). It was not an expression of personal sin, but of grief at the death of their king.

When news of Haman’s edict arrives in Esther 4, “there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3). When David prays about his friends’ betrayal of him, he says they rejoice at his misfortune, even though he had “afflicted [him]self with fasting” and mourned when they were sick (Psalm 35:13–14). In Psalm 69, David says he “wept and humbled [his] soul with fasting” (Psalm 69:10), not because of his own sin, but because he was ill-treated. Similarly, Ezra “sat appalled” (Ezra 9:3–4), and fasted (Ezra 9:5), not at his own sin, but having learned “the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands” (Ezra 9:2).

Fasting gave voice to the pain and sorrow of sudden and severe “outward” circumstances and represented a heart of faith toward God in the midst of great tragedies.

 

Forward: To Seek God’s Favour

Finally, we find a kind of “forward” fast, not in response to sin within or grief without, but more proactive, in a sense, asking for God’s guidance or future favour. The first explicit mention of fasting in the Bible, coming at the sordid end of Judges, has this “forward” component. God’s people not only weep for the civil war unfolding among them but also inquire of the Lord for guidance (like Acts 13:2), whether or not to go out in battle against the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:26). We see such a “forward” orientation in 2 Chronicles 20:3: with a great multitude coming against his people, king Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast. He pled for God’s direction, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

David also sought God’s rescue on his knees “weak through fasting” (Psalm 109:24) and appealed for healing for his sick newborn with a forward-looking fast (2 Samuel 12:16, 21–23). “Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” (2 Samuel 12:22).

Fasting “forward” for God’s favour played a crucial role in the preservation and return of God’s people from exile. Before approaching the king to seek his favour, Esther sought God’s favour first, with a fast:

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

God answered and, through Esther, saved his people.

Even Darius, king over Israel’s exile in its final stages, sought Daniel’s deliverance from the lions (in an often overlooked part of the story) with fasting (Daniel 6:18). Before setting out from Babylon, Ezra proclaimed a fast “that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods” (Ezra 8:21, 23). Also for Nehemiah (like 2 Chronicles 20:3), fasting not only expressed grief and mourning (Nehemiah 1:4) but led to seeking God’s favor: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today” (Nehemiah 1:11). He prayed, and fasted. Then, in faith, he approached the king.

Fasting often served as an intensifier alongside “forward” prayers for God’s guidance, traveling mercies, and special favor.

 

Common Thread: Godward

This is not all the Old Testament has to say about fasting (for instance, see the correctives of Isaiah 58:3–6; Jeremiah 14:12; and Zechariah 7:5; 8:19), but the three general categories hold: fasting expresses (inward) repentance, grieves (outward) tragedies, or seeks God’s (forward) favor. And a common thread holds all true fasting together. Fasting, like prayer, is always Godward.

Faithful fasting, whatever the conditions of its origin, is rooted in human lack and need — for God. We need his help, his favor, his guidance. We need his rescue and comfort in trouble. We need his forgiveness and grace because we have sinned. We need God. He, not human circumstances or activity, is the common denominator of fasting. Fasting expresses to God our pointedly felt need for God. We have daily needs, and unusual ones. We pray for daily bread, and in times of special need, we reach for the prayer-amplifier called fasting.

 

Christian Fasting Is Unique

Christians have one final and essential piece to add: the depth and clarity and surety we now have in Christ. As we express to God our special needs for him — whether in repentance, or in grief, or for his favour — we do so with granite under our feet. When our painful sense of lack tempts us to focus on what we do not have, fasting now reminds us of what we do. Already God has come for us. Already Christ has died and rose. Already we are his by faith. Already we have his Spirit in us, through us, and for us. Already our future is secure. Already we have a true home.

In fasting, we confess we are not home yet, and remember that we are not homeless. In fasting, we cry out to our Groom, and remember that we have his covenant promises. In fasting, we confess our lack, and remember that the one with every resource has pledged his help in his perfect timing.

“Christian fasting is unique among all the fasting in the world,” says John Piper. “It is unique in that it expresses more than longing for Christ or hunger for Christ’s presence. It is a hunger that is rooted in, based on, an already present, experienced reality of Christ in history and in our hearts.”

In Christ, fasting is not just a Godward expression of our need. It is not just an admission that we are not full. Fasting is a statement — in the very midst of our need — that we are not empty.

Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

From Christianity Today

Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

The former megachurch pastor asks today’s churches to measure their practices against the New Testament standard.
Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

Image: Daley Hake

Eight years ago, Francis Chan resigned as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California—the church he helped grow from 30 people gathered in a living room to a multimillion-dollar ministry. He wasn’t burned out. There was no disqualifying moral failure. He’d simply grown convicted over his challenges in steering a large ministry in accordance with biblical values.

 
 
Letters to the Church
Letters to the Church

David C. Cook
2018-09-01
224 pp., $10.19

Buy Letters to the Church from Amazon

Chan sold his house and spent a year traveling through Southeast Asia, visiting churches and interacting with church leaders. Returning to California, he began planting churches in his home and the homes of others in his San Francisco neighborhood. His latest book, Letters to the Church, is a pastoral call for American churches to consider whether their values and practices are consistent with Scripture. Writer and fellow Bay-area resident Rachael Starke spoke with Chan about the blessings that come from recommitting to church life as God designed it.

Your book exhorts churches to recommit to Acts 2 practices like extended prayer, radical love and service, and intimate fellowship within the home. But many of these run counter to the digitized lives we live today, especially in places like San Francisco. How have revolutions in technology influenced American church practices and habits?

Technology is really about speed: doing everything faster and with less effort. We’re tempted to want the church to be the same way—let me accomplish what I want in as little time as possible. But the blessing is going to come from the work itself, from the hard work you do to love and serve one another. What could be greater than that?

Many books about church ministry emphasize adults ministering to kids. But you propose some intriguing ideas about children serving the church. What does that look like?

My kids have all these “aunts and uncles” who are really just brothers and sisters in Christ. Right now my older kids are taking my younger kids and others and discipling them. We love each other’s kids: Someone’s always sleeping over at my place, or my kids are sleeping over somewhere else.

When we gather, my kids are involved in leading the music—playing instruments and singing. They share what they’re learning in their Bible reading. During one gathering, my 12-year-old son talked about leading his friend to the Lord; this friend “has two dads” and isn’t allowed to come to church. He talked about how he’s the only discipler his friend, this new young believer, can have right now. On another occasion, they invited their science teacher to our gathering. They convict the room with their obedience more than I ever could.

 

If Francis Chan leads someone to the Lord, it’s kind of expected. But when my seven-year-old has been praying for her friend for weeks or months, and then that friend ends up in our house gathering, that’s a beautiful thing.

You challenge churches to test their traditions and practices against the ones God actually prescribes in the Bible. What would you say to those who regard those traditions as contemporary means for accomplishing biblical ends?

There is a sense in which all things are permissible. What I’m saying is, let’s obey the commands first. It may be that you’ve spent so much time on what’s permissible, you’ve neglected what’s actually commanded.

Let’s also consider the byproduct of doing some things that seem harmless. Sometimes good things happen and we don’t consider the cost, whether it’s money spent or time invested. As a young pastor back in the ’90s, I remember going to this church growth event, a Christmas musical. What if the people of that church had spent those hours actually talking to their neighbors? Some churches in America don’t believe they can do discipleship or evangelism. But in countries like China and India, they fully expect they can do it, and it’s done.

American Christians are increasingly paying attention to so-called justice issues, like alleviating suffering or fighting religious persecution at home and overseas. But your book doesn’t mention these issues in much depth. Why not?

When I came back from Africa the first time, I was obsessed with the people there who were starving and suffering. I was so in love with the Sudanese refugees, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about issues affecting them, like human trafficking. Those were all good and necessary, and I’m grateful for how God was at work through those efforts. But I didn’t have Christ at the center.

There has to be a way to care about suffering and injustice that doesn’t elevate them above Christ himself. Do I hear people who call themselves Christians talk like Paul does in Philippians 3—that everything else is “garbage” compared with Christ (v. 8)? Loving Jesus has to be central. I wasn’t trying to avoid justice issues in the book as much as I was trying to emphasize what the Bible itself emphasizes above all.

In many quarters, bivocational ministry is viewed, at best, as a necessary compromise when there isn’t enough money to hire a full-time pastor. Why have you made this model a hallmark of your churches?

I don’t say it’s the only way; if I did, I’d be in sin. There’s certainly biblical precedent for paying Christian workers. I only advocate bivocational ministry because I’ve seen the benefits. Right now, we have around 40 pastors, representing all walks of life—a cop, a school teacher, a tech guy, a restaurant worker, and a guy who was homeless two years ago. These are my leaders. When people see them, they think, “I have no excuse for not making disciples.”

Adjusting to new paradigms for church life is hard; you mention a person in your congregation who compared it to switching from figure skating to competitive hockey. How should those in leadership positions—or those sitting in the pews—initiate conversations about making big changes?

I wrote an addendum titled “Surviving Arrogance” to address this exact issue. I could see people marching into their pastor’s office and saying, “We’re screwed up and Francis Chan says so.” There’s a humble way to raise these issues and a not so humble way.

When I was at Cornerstone, I wanted to change everything overnight. I was trying to do it through a sermon or a change in programs. But discipleship takes time. I thought if I preached this one sermon it would change everything right away. This work takes a long time and lots of effort.

I hope that people won’t be attracted by the numbers. I’m hoping that new leaders will arise who will start their own churches. I’m hoping that some existing leaders will step away because they see sin in their lives and take some time to get their walk right. But I’m also hoping that people will read the book and have a new sense of hope—that the things I’m writing about are for today just as much as they were for the early church. I want them to stop looking at passages in Acts like they’re hyperbole instead of the actual Word of God.

Some church leaders are leading out of arrogance, but others are scared to look foolish or make a mistake. That’s their own pride or fear of failure at work. For those who are arrogant, I hope this book encourages them to humble themselves by leaving. But for those who are pridefully afraid of failing, I hope this book encourages them to humble themselves by doing—stepping out in faith and obedience.

Hillsong Becomes a Denomination

From Vision Christian Radio:

Hillsong Becomes a Denomination

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Hillsong

Hillsong has become its own denomination this week, withdrawing from the Australian Christian Churches group.

The church, which began as Hills Christian Life Centre in 1983, led by Brian and Bobbie Houston, grew and planted into 123 locations across the world.

It was formed within and has remained under the governance of the ACC until yesterday.

Brian Houston says the move, which has been under consideration for two years, is not based on division, but on growth.

He says Hillsong no longer see themselves as an Australian Church with a global footprint, but rather a Global church with an Australian base.

Hillsong’s global HQ is now in the United States.

Brian Houston says two thirds of the people attending Hillsong Church each weekend live in countries beyond Australia.

He says “it has become clear to us that we need to be able to credential our own pastors and restructure our church in a way that enables us to give due diligence to governance, risk, church health, safe church and many other policies that are crucial to the future progress of Hillsong globally.”

Read the full article here

Praying Beyond The Words

Prayer is an amazing privilege. It is awesome to think that we can enter into God’s presence at any time and speak freely to the Creator of all things.

Sometimes I find my words become more important than the relationship. My mind gets into praying mode, and all I think of is the words I am speaking. God becomes lost in my praying.

Tonight the Lord reminded me of this simple song. As I sang it softly, my soul settled and the Holy Spirit touched me in the quiet.

Sometimes we need that simple act of worship- a song, a prayer such as the Jesus prayer-  to re-centre our spirits and enable us to focus on God.

Babylon Bee: Man Refuses To Join Local Gym, Claims He’s Just Part Of The ‘Universal Gym’

Man Refuses To Join Local Gym, Claims He’s Just Part Of The ‘Universal Gym’

TORONTO—Local man Tim Rubidoux has refused to join a local gym, claiming instead that his membership in the “invisible, universal gym” should be enough to get him into shape.

“Yeah, I’m not really into the whole ‘organized fitness’ thing,” he told reporters, stating that he’s been “burned a few times” by gyms that didn’t cater to his every whim. “I’m into fitness, but I’m not religious about it.”

He also launched into a long diatribe about the hypocrisy of other people he sees at the gym, who are working out but aren’t perfectly fit yet. “That really turned me off of the whole institutional exercise thing. It’s just not for me.”

Rubidoux states that he simply exercises on his own time whenever he feels like it, with no disciplined routine or partners to keep him accountable. “Nature is my gym.”

At publishing time, sources had been able to confirm that Rubidoux hasn’t exercised in 14 years.