Choose Spiritual Health

There was recently an article in our local paper by a doctor, who gave the readers suggestions about making choices that would lead to a healthier physical life.  It occurred to me that most of them can be adapted to living a healthier spiritual life, so here goes

To be healthy physically                               To be healthy spiritually

  1.  Stop smoking                                            Stop sinful habits                                 We know certain things are bad for us, but we often hold onto them out of habit.  What sin do you struggle with most often?  Is it lust, greed, laziness, pride, anger, gluttony or something else?  Make an effort to give it up.
  2. Control your weight                                   Feed yourself spiritually                    It’s been said that you are what you eat.  Nourish yourself by reading God’s Word and reading books and watching television shows that edify instead of feeding yourself with “junk food”
  3.  Exercise                                                      Exercise  your faith                            Your faith will not grow stronger without practice.  Go to worship and Bible study.  Pray.  Make these things part of your weekly routine.
  4. Have regular check-ups                              Meet with a spiritual mentor           Make time to speak with a more mature Christian who will hold you accountable in your faith life and give suggestions about how to grow spiritually.  This could be your pastor, or a Christian friend.
  5. Do something besides work                        Participate in Christian ministry  Helping others will not only spread God’s love in the world, it will make you feel better about yourself and you will spend less time thinking about your problems.
  6. Have someone special in your life              Join other Christians in fellowship God is love, and He made us to give and receive love.  Positive relationships are important to both physical and spiritual health

Most of us are willing to make changes that will improve our lives physically, so why not spiritually?  The same kind of sacrifice and discipline is necessary, and the effects are even more worthwhile.  Since Lent is a time of spiritual discipline, consider which of these healthy habits you can implement.

 

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What is My Duty?

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Sometimes doing our duty seems to be a sort of boring burden. The very word, “duty” brings to mind the sort of chores that nobody is anxious to undertake. Sometimes we try to make fulfilling our duty to God harder than it needs to be.  We worry and fret and wonder if we’ve made the right decision. Sometimes we want to have a set of one-fits-all, easy to follow rules so we know exactly where we stand.  That doesn’t work because God relates to each of us individually.  He wants every Christian to do the best he or she can with the specific talents and abilities we’ve been given.

I came across this quote from George MacDonald, a Scottish author and minister, which has helped me.  Maybe it will help you, too.

“‘What is my next duty?  What is the thing that lies nearest to me?’ ‘That belongs to your every-day history.  No one can answer that question but yourself.  Your next duty is just to determine what your next duty is.  Is there nothing you neglect?  Is there nothing you know you ought not to do?  You would know your duty, if you thought in earnest about it, and were not ambitious of great things.’ ‘Ah, then,’ responded she, ‘I suppose it is something very commonplace, which will make life more dreary than ever.  That cannot help me. ‘ ‘It will, if it be as dreary as reading the newspapers to an old deaf aunt.  It will soon lead you to something more.  Your duty will begin to comfort you at once, but will at length open the unknown fountain of life in your heart.”

Duty doesn’t have to be drudgery.  It doesn’t have to be hard.  It doesn’t have to be big.  If we do the duty that is in front of us, God will teach us and lead us on to all that he intends to make of our lives, and that will be downright exciting!  Just walk with Him, day by day.  It will be enough.

 

Even More Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Today my husband and I watched the movie, “Gosnell:  The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.”  I borrowed this DVD from our local library and didn’t know much about the case… not surprising because there have been few reviews and very little media attention.  Why?  Well, Gosnell was an abortion doctor, and evidently, nobody likes to criticize abortionists.

The thing is, Doctor Gosnell did not just perform abortions, he performed them in a dirty clinic that had not been inspected for 17 years, despite complaints.  Why?  Well, nobody wants to shut down abortion clinics because that would interfere with the reproductive rights of women.  He was convicted of causing the death of one patient, and of “snipping” the spinal cords, and thereby killing a number of infants who had been born alive.  There were probably many more victims.

For me, the most revealing moments of the film were when an doctor who performs legal abortions described the procedure. She explained that at her clinic, no abortions were performed after the legal cut off of 24 weeks, and no infant had ever been born alive and killed.  Why?  Well because in the procedures she performed, babies (or fetuses if you prefer) are injected with a drug that stops their hearts while they are still in the uterus.  The doctor waits to make sure the heart is no longer beating and then removes them.  This is not murder because the child is already dead when it is delivered.  Does it make sense to say this trial was not about abortion?  Clearly it was, at least if “you have ears to hear.”

Is it just me or is all of  this just another example of stinkin’ thinkin’?  It is somehow okay to ignore medical malpractice because it might cast abortionists in a bad light?  How is this protecting women?  It is somehow okay to administer a lethal injection to a child while still in the womb, but becomes a crime to kill it after it breathes air for the first time?  Where is the logic in this?

The jury agreed that Gosnell was a murderer.  I wonder if any who started as “pro-choice” changed their opinions in the course of the trial.  I wonder if many people will watch this movie and be brought face to face with the “stinkin’ thinkin'” of our society.  At the end, the policeman who first brought the charges asked an investigative blogger why she had helped him and the D.A..  She answered something to this effect, “I was after the truth, and it’s still the truth even if I don’t like it.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate, John 18:38

It seems that this is still a good question.

One Matters

Many of you know that our congregation has embarked upon a process of revitalization called Fanning the Flame, and it is my privilege as a team member to be the Spiritual Gifts coordinator for St. Paul’s.  This means I have been providing members with a spiritual gifts assessment to work through and then discussing the results with each person.  It’s led to some interesting ideas about what direction our ministry might take.

We have many members who are attracted to caring ministries.  The heart of caring ministries is:

assisting people in the church and community with

their physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual

health through the grace, love, and resources of the kingdom.”

Some of those I interviewed had a heart for the very needy, hungry and homeless.  We talked about how it is difficult to see someone on the street, holding up a sign that they are in need, and not knowing what to do.  Sometimes we’re afraid giving cash isn’t the best idea;  sometimes we don’t have cash with us.  One person mentioned seeing a list on line of supplies that could be placed in a homeless “blessing bag.”  The bag is then kept in your car, ready to hand out at any time.

Here are some of the suggested items:

  • Personal care products — deodorant, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Food and snacks–raisins, granola bars, small tuna with spoon, gum, water or a drink
  • Cold weather clothing — hat, glove, scarf or socks
  • Quarters or dollar bills for vending machines
  • Healthcare items–band aids, vitamins

We publicized the list to the congregation, and our adult Sunday School class purchased some small New Testaments to include.  Since putting the word out, several people have told me they have had an opportunity to give some away.  It is a good feeling, not only to help, but to connect with another person and let them know that God loves them and somebody cares.  My husband and I have received words of thanks and blessing, and requests for prayer when we hand out our bags.  One man told me how grateful he was to receive a pair of socks!

Each one matters, and each of us can help at least one.

 

 

It’s About Time

This was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador

To God, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”  (2 Peter 3:8).  While God exists outside of time, we humans do not.  In fact, I have spent a great deal of my life thinking about time, and I bet you have, too.

As a child, and even a teenager, I felt that I had “all the time in the world.”  When I grew up, married, had children and a career, there weren’t “enough hours in the day” to finish all the tasks that needed to be done.  Eventually the children grew up, my parents grew old, jobs changed and “time marched on.”  A few years ago I turned 65, an age at which I am, at least according to government standards, officially old.  Suddenly I realize that “time is short.”

I find myself wondering, “What things do I most want to do or accomplish in the time I have left?  Time has become a limited and precious commodity and I must decide how to “spend” it.

In actuality, the Bible tells me that my time on earth has always been brief —

“Man is like a breath;  his days are like a fleeting shadow”

says the Psalmist (144:4).  This means every one of us, regardless of our age, should have a sense of urgency about time and how to use it.  We must “work the works of Him who sent me while it is day;  night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

Scripture give us a number of clear instructions about how to do this.

  • Be Grateful

We have no control over the length of our lives (Luke 2:25), so every day is a gift.  The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time”(3:11) and “everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil”(3:13).  This means we should take pleasure in daily life and give thanks to God for the small and large blessings of each day.

  • Be Wise

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  In Proverbs, the wise person is described as one who fears the Lord and shuns evil(14:16), is humble(12:15) and wins souls(11:30)

  • Be Ready

We should be ready to witness:  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). We should “be ready to do whatever is good”(Titus 3:1) We should be ready for Christ to come again for “you do not know on what day your Lord will come”(Matthew 24:42)

  • Be Trusting

This is a crucial element in how Christians approach time.  We cannot control time but we know the One who does.  He sent Jesus to save us “at the right time”(Romans 5:6).  Can’t we trust Him with the events of our lives, as well?  As a Christian, I can say along with David, “My times are in your hand.”(Psalm 31:15a).

 

Your Will Not Mine

Why do you pray?  Is it to get what you want?  Change something that makes you unhappy?  Find a way out of a desperate situation?  It’s okay.  We all pray like this, sometimes, and God wants us to pour out our innermost thoughts, desires and fears to Him.  It’s a beginning.  However, the motivating factor behind our prayer life should be this:  to know His will and obey Him.  I found this quote that expresses true prayer well:

“That prayer which does not succeed in moderating our wish, in changing the passionate desire into still submission, the anxious, tumultuous expectation into silent surrender, is no true prayer and proves that that we have not the spirit of true prayer.  That life is most holy in which there is least of petition and desire, and most of waiting upon God;  that in which petition most often passes into thanksgiving.  Pray till prayer makes you forget your own wish, and leave it or merge it in God’s will.  The Divine wisdom has given us prayer, not as a means whereby to obtain the good things of earth, but as a means whereby we learn to do without them;  not as a means whereby we escape evil, but as a means whereby we become strong to meet it.” F.W. Robertson

This is how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was an anguished, but genuine prayer;  a prayer that was all about the Father and His plan.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

Can you follow His lead and pray to be led into God’s will, not your own?  It’s a prayer that will never fail.

Lenten Discipline

This article was originally published in our denomination’s magazine, The Lutheran Ambassador.  I thought it would be appropriate to post during this season of Lent.

Are you a disciplined person?  Do you go to the gym or walk regularly to exercise your body?  Do you take all the training offered in your workplace so that you can advance in your career?  Do your read child development books and Parents Magazine in the hopes of becoming the best mom or dad you can be?

All of these activities require discipline, and most of us are willing to practice discipline when the end result is important to us.

Lent is a season of spiritual discipline. At the time of the Reformation,  when some wanted to eliminate Lent,  Martin Luther argued for keeping it saying,

“Lent, Palm Sunday and Easter week should be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the gospels appointed for that season”  Luther’s Works 53:90

Adopting a Lenten practice has real spiritual value.  It can help us develop self-control by detaching our desires from worldly things.  We may identify more strongly with Christ’s suffering and meditate on the true meaning of discipleship.  It is a concrete way to express sorrow and repentance for our sins.

Most often I hear people say they are observing Lent by giving something up (in the case of Lutherans, this is usually coffee or desserts, which seem to be our particular vices!)  There is nothing wrong with fasting for Lent, especially if we are avoiding something which is a particular area of sin or a distraction for us.  I am an avid reader and I sometimes “fast” from all secular reading during Lent.  This opens up more time for reading the Bible and devotional literature.  You might “fast” from watching TV for the same reason;  or give up recreational shopping or eating out and donate the money you save to a worthy cause.

Adding something to your schedule is another way to practice spiritual discipline.  If your church has a weekly Lenten service, go — this is a discipline that will help you grow in your faith!  One year our congregation shared our favorite Bible verses and committed ourselves to memorizing one new verse each day during Lent. It was marvelous to see the variety in God’s word and an incentive to strengthen our spiritual muscles.  You might try setting aside extra time for prayer, offering your services to a local ministry, or writing notes of encouragement to people who need God’s love.

We are each unique, so be creative in finding the Lenten exercise that stretches an increases your faith.  If you think of Lent as a journey, you may very well end up in a new place when it is over.  Make it a time of exciting discovery instead of that dreary season you have to endure on the way to Easter.  Have a blessed Lent as you seek his face.