Feeding a Healthy Spirit

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 NIV)

 

 

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I was talking to someone the other day who has made some life changes, especially around their diet. They’ve done away with a lot of processed foods, lot’s of raw vegetables fruits. that sort of thing. And there is no denying that this person, and they looked better. Not only had they lost weight, but their eyes were brighter, their skin was glowing. They just looked healthier.

The husband shared with me that he was a bit dubious when his wife suggested they try this, but that he had to admit he really did feel better. Of course that health came with a price as he had to change a lot of his eating habits and learn to discipline himself. But the benefits made it worth it.

Of course that comes as no shock to us. We know that eating better is good for us. We all know that when we choose to eat healthy we feel better. It’s really not a knowledge issue is it?  The truth of the matter is while the spinach and kale chips are available for a snack we are going to reach for the Cheetos.  We know while it’s possible to make a vegetable smoothie our meal the call of the double bacon cheeseburger with a donut as a bun sings to us.

Personally I’m all for moderation. It is good to eat healthy, and I should eat healthier than I do. But  an indulgence every now and then really isn’t all that bad for  us.  The problem is that we  don’t do well with moderation. One Cheeto becomes a whole bag. Although to be honest, I’m highly suspicious of anyone who eats one Cheeto. It’s probably never a good idea to eat a bacon cheeseburger won a glazed donut bun, but  if you eat healthier the rest of the time you can probably get away with it.  Living on them is another issue all together.

Indulge yourself too much and you’re going to pay for it at some point. You need healthy food in order to have a healthy body. bad food, eaten long enough is going to hurt you. It’s a principle that holds true for our spiritual health as well.  we simply cannot cultivate a healthy spirit if we malnourished it or fed it junk.  The more junk we feed our spirits the  sicker our souls get.

If we feed ourselves on anger and judgment our souls eventually will begin to reflect that. It’s one of the issues I have with social media. while it can be a great tool, it also fosters the opportunity to fill our hearts with junk. Anger gossip, innuendo, finger pointing etc. This is especially true in an election year where we are all to happy to point fingers at the”other side” as being evil, stupid or dangerous. If all you ever do is fill your mind with anger don’t be surprised when anger begins to seep out into your own life. There is an old saying, “you are what you eat.”   It’s also true that “You are what you feed your mind and soul.”

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So let me suggest we begin to get healthier spiritually and we become more mindful about what it is that we are feeding on. Here are a few suggestions can lead us to greater spiritual health if we are willing to do them.

  1. Daily feeding on the word of God. The Bible remains one of the bestselling and last read books of all time.  Take time daily to read the Bible. Find a translation that you like to read and simply read it. Nourish yourself on His word.
  2. Pray. Not just give God his chore list for the day. But learn to spend time in God’s presence. Learn to listen in prayer more than you talk. Make prayer a regular part of your life.
  3. Find a ministry. It’s just common sense. One of the reasons we fill our souls with empty calories is we have nothing else to occupy our hearts. Spending time in ministry affords God time to fill your souls.
  4. Stop mindless snacking on what’s not good for you. It’s fine to have a debate with someone or to express your opinions. But when you begin to see it affect your soul, step away.  It’s not your job to argue everyone into the kingdom of God. If you know something or someone is going to put your spirit in a negative place, don’t go there.

5.Become more disciplined. Most people don’t automatically become healthier eaters.                 They have to discipline themselves. read labels not bring junk into the home. So it                 is with our souls. You have to discipline yourself and work at it. Make yourself go to               church even when you may not feel like it. Take that Bible Study or Sunday School                  class even if it’s  inconvenient for you.  Take control of your spiritual health.                           6. It’s easier to walk with someone than go it alone. We all need people in our                                lives who  are willing to hold us accountable and keep us from straying from our                      spiritual diet.  Knowing there are peopl who will not only pray with you and feed                      you but call you  to  the carpet when you “cheat’ and fill your heart with negative                     things is also  crucial.

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Feeling a little spiritually malnourished lately? Finding yourself living with a low baseline of anger, sin or frustration? talk some time and ask yourself, “What am I feeding my soul?”  It may not be easy. But try it. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

 

 

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Change

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
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    This weekend I updated my software system for my cell phone. I go back and forth between pretty geeked up about what the new system offers, and being very sad that the highlight of my weekend was updating my phone.  “What did you do this weekend?” We went hiking the Grand Canyon.  Went sky diving and had a picnic after. Went hi-wire walking over Niagra Falls.”  Me: hit that update your software notification, sat back and watched the magic happen. What has happened to my life?
   That being said, the update is pretty cool.  Most of the time these periodic updates don’t do much. a little more protection to keep the hackers at bay, but that’s pretty much it. But every now and then the entire system changes. new features, all sorts of bells and whistles. There is a new app that helps you calculate  your bed time and will remind you when it’s time to go to bed and when you need to get up. Becuase apparently we are all four and the phone has become our mom.  Can you imagine that conversation:
Phone: It’s time to go to bed.
Me: In a minute the game is almost done.
Phone: NOW MISTER!
Me: Yes, ma’am.
  But while I like the system, and the new features, its not without it’s difficulties. First of all it’s different and change always takes time to get used to. I am still trying to get into my phone in the old way and have to remind myself that it doesn’t work that way.  Eventually my muscle memory will adjust. But right now it takes some doing.  Having new features means old features go away. The old and the new cannot exist together. The old must make way for the new.
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   So it is with the Chrsitian life, and often where we struggle. Giving our life to Christ is incredible. It’s wonderful. In many ways when we give our life to Christ is like getting a completley new software system for our souls. New outlook, new life.  And it’s wonderful.
  But there is a part of us that longs for the old. Its the constant struggle as a Christian in having our old life, our old way of doing things calls to us. Change is hard.  It’s not always that we are sinful, so much that we crave the familiar. Life is Jesus is new. Its unfamiliar and it can be scary.
  I think that’s why, when Paul writes to the early church one of the big battles he constantly addresses is the desire for the people to go back to their old ways. Either to go back to the law, or back to their sin.  Paul has to remind them, over and over that they are a new creation and should not allow the old way or the world to conform them to what they were, but to allow Jesus to make them into what they could be.
  Paul would remind them that not only was the old life gone it was dead. nailed to the cross. Don’t go back to the dead, go to the new life. Martin Luther would often remind himself, when tempted that his old life had been crucified and that, as a baptized believer, he was new.
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   Maybe you’re struggling with that old pull. Please let me encourage you not to go back, but to go forward into the new life Jesus offers. Trust me, just as we develop muscle memory and adapt, we will develop a spiritual muscle memory of sorts. And as we continue to walk  with Jesus it gets easy. It becomes the “New Normal.” So carry on and always look for the new update as Jesu continues to form you into His image.
In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

Risk

29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:29 ESV)

There is a walking bridge in China that stretches out over a long gorge.  It’s not all that different than other bridges all over the world that do the same thing.  One might even make the case it’s safer than many of them. But what makes it different is that it’s floor is made out of glass. Walking across it gives you the impression you are stepping out into thin air. Apparently it’s not for the faint of heart. Take a few moments and watch this  video:

 

What would you do? Would you boldly walk across it whistling a happy tune? Mind you that’s easier said, siting in a comfy chair at home.  Would you be the one who grabs onto the side railing and scuttles across? Might you put your hand tightly on the shoulder of someone walking in front of you, eyes shut tight? “Just tell me when we get across!”  Would you crawl across in the midst of the most intimate prayer session you’ve ever had? Or would your friends have to drag you across kicking, screaming and perhaps even weeping a bit? Would you even walk across?

Of course that’s a big part of the attraction of the bridge.  People walk across it because it’s a thrill,it’s a little, maybe even a lot scary.  Of course the bridge is perfectly safe. It’s had several inspections and I’ve seen video of engineers hitting the glass with a sledge-hammer. Because even in our thrills we want safety.

Notice how everyone in the video seeks their own place of safety and security. They hold to the edge or another person they feel more secure on their hand and knees. Now, to be sure they should be commended for trying to go across. But my point is that everyone wants to feel secure and safe even when we want a thrill. Risk taking isn’t really a part of our nature.

The bridge reminds me, in a lot of ways, of  the journey we take as Christians. We want to be obedient to God, but we want it to be safe. The less danger the better. I’ll follow Jesus, but let me hold onto the side railings. Let somebody else go first and I’ll just hold onto their coat tails.  Man of us live our faith with our eyes closed, ignore the danger and asking God to let us know when we’ve made it through.   A lot of us crawl on our knees. And there are days when our blessed friends grab us by the hands and ankles and drag us kicking and screaming.

Now those who cross are to be commended for the attempt even when it’s frightening. But my point  is it’s difficult to live a full life in Christ and seek safety. Following Jesus isn’t about being comfortable. It’s not about getting your rewards. It’s not about less risk. Actually it’s just the opposite. Following Jesus, truly following Him is much more like Peter interact.  Jesus gives Peter not safety wire or  a lifesaver. No guarantee except himself.  Following Jesus is just like the bridge, only there’s no bridge.  No safety report.  Only Jesus saying, come follow me.

It’s a lot more like this

 

Maybe that’s the point though. Safety doesn’t strengthen our faith, it softens it. Not taking risks or living the adventure of our faith draws no one to Jesus. But a Body of Christ, a church, even  one person willing to let go and step out? A person living out that type of adventurous a faith? why Go to change the entire world around them.

Look, if you’re still crawling across the bridge, it’s Ok. God loves you and you’re being as obedient as you can. But what if, just what if, you stood up, took off the safety harness and risked something, anything to follow Jesus? What might happen then?

 

Amen

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones

Where Have You Been?

“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NIV)

 

“You shImage result for empty pewould have been there!” Most of us have had that experience where we missed it. We missed the party of the year,or “the greatest night ever” or an incredible event. And when we gather with the lucky ones who were there we inevitably hear, “You should have been there!”

It’s not that we didn’t want to be there, you understand.  But we can’t be everywhere, as much as we would like to be.  We have responsibilities in life and duties to attend to that keep us from being everywhere. And often those responsibilites keep us from being where we would really like to be, and we miss the great event.  Just a few weeks ago I met with some friends who attended an, apparently, incredible seminar that I really wanted to attend. Unfortunately it fell on a day I had to perform a wedding. Oddly enough the bride and groom were  unsympathetic to my plight. So I msseid the seminar.

And we can live with that. We had to work. We had a prior commitment. We’ll get over it.  but have you ever had one of those “You missed it events”  that you could have attended, but you simply didn’t go?  Maybe you were too tired. Or the game was on and you decided to stay in instead? Maybe that left over pizza in the fridge and 20 hours of watching Netflix  was calling your name.  Then you get on social media and see all the fun your friends were having. You see a once in a lifetime event unfold before your eyes and you missed it simply because you didn’t attend. “You should have been there!  Where were you?” You kick yourself for your poor choices.

Mutiply that by a thousand fold and you might begin to understand how Thomas felt as he joins the other disciples. Talk about missing a once in a lifetime event! Jesus has risen from the grave. Crucifed, dead and buried, now Risen. The Son of God is Alive.  And Thomas missed it. Thomas can’t believe it. He refuses to believe it until he sees it for himself and can put  his hands in Jesus side or put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands. From then on Thomas will be known as Doubting Thomas.  So famous is he for his doubt that anyone from then on who demands extreme proof are called a Doubting Thomas.

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But that’s not entirely accurate. Thomas’ problem wasn’t a lack of faith or great doubt. Thomas’ problem is that he missed seeing Jesus when he appeared. I read a study note in a Bible once that said Thomas should have been called Absent Thomas, not Doubting Thomas.

We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared.  He may have had good reason to be gone. Or maybe he slept in, took an early dinner that extended into the  evening. But whatever the reason, He missed Jesus because he was absent. Because he was absent, he missed seeing the resurrected Jesus. And doubt began to grow. You should have been there.

Thomas’ plight is often our own.  When we are absent from the Body of Christ we miss the palpable presence of Jesus. And when we miss His presence or don’t witness His movement doubt sets in. When we gather for worship, we are doing more than simply attending a meeting. We enter into the presence of God.  We hear prayer requests lifted and we witness God answering those prayers. We see people professing their faith, being baptized. We see people give their lives to Christ and become Born Again. While we don’t put our hand in Jesus side, when we take communion we do experience His presence in the broken body and poured out wine.  And the more you experience it the deeper the fire of the Holy Spirit within your soul.

If you’ve been experiencing some doubt lately, or if the embers of your faith have cooled and lost their glow ask yourself is it doubt or an absentee problem? Have you allowed participation in the life of the church take a back seat to other priorities? Is the issue, not that God has been absent from your presence, but you’ve been absent from His? Don’t miss out. Don’t be absent.  The resurrected Christ is moving and redeeming the world. When it comes to experiencing Jesus the last thing you want to hear is “You should have been there”

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><