Are You Healthily Sick?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Nate Champneys

FullSizeRender

Are you healthily sick?

“What do you mean?,” you might ask. “How can you be sick in a healthy way?” As human beings who live in a world that is soaking in the depravity of sin, the effect of the Fall is all around us and within us. I used to think that eventually I would “arrive” and I would be completely healthy at some point. I would look at certain people in my life, where everything looked good in their lives and I would think, “Maybe someday I will be able to be like them.”

However, the longer I live, the more I realize that even the people who came from “good” childhoods and seem like they have it all together are broken. Every single one of us has fractures in our heart as a result of own sin and being sinned against by others. So every one of us is “sick.”

The good news is that we have a God who can and does bring healing to our broken hearts, but, until we get to Heaven, we will always have fractures in our hearts that need God’s healing. Is there a healthy way to deal with our brokenness? What does it look like to be healthy in the midst of our sickness? I would like to share four principles of being healthily sick.

Let me be clear. These four characteristics are not “Nathan Champneys’s four steps to spiritual success.” They really aren’t steps, but they are all simultaneously part of the healing process. In my own life, I feel like I am constantly going deeper into all of these. None of us ever “arrives.” So life becomes a process of working through these items. Don’t read these steps and try to place yourself into one or another. You will focus on these in different measures as you go deeper and deeper into allowing God to heal your heart. As we embrace these four principles, even though we are still “sick” because of our sin nature, we are living in a healthy way as Jesus continually brings healing to our hearts.

  1. Embrace the truth that you are accepted and loved exactly the way you are. God is not surprised by the fractures in your heart. He loves you right now, even with all your problems. There is nothing you can do to change that fact. This is such a hard truth to internalize, and it’s one that we have to keep relearning. I find it helpful to verbalize the truth to myself in prayer. I pray, “God, I thank You for being a good Father and completely accepting me. I thank You for loving me in my brokenness.”
  2. Own your brokenness. It has been said that the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. This really isn’t the first step; it’s the second. Until we understand how loved we are by God, we tend to feel insecure about our weaknesses and thus feel a need to live in denial about them. You are broken. You are a piece of work. But you are okay! You are loved!
  3. Intentionally discover your brokenness. The next part of being healthy in your brokenness is intentionally seeking out the areas that need healing. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You.” David asks God to point out the offensive areas of his heart. David is not afraid to acknowledge his faults. Instead, he is actively working with God to discover the broken areas.
  4. Ask God to heal you. David ends Psalm 139 with this line, “Lead me along the path of everlasting life.” David was asking God to help him thrive in his relationship. The reality about our God is that He is a really, really good Father. The only way that real relationship can truly happen is for there to be freedom for both people in the relationship to have free will to participate. Therefore, God will never violate our free will. To do so would make us robots and make any relationship with us fake. If we don’t invite God into the process of healing our hearts, He doesn’t force it on us. But he has promised that as we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As we choose to bring our sickness to Him, He is more than willing to bring healing to us.
If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Do You Mind?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Jeff Foerster

We purchase milk for our families devoid of bovine growth hormones. We stock up on organic produce that contains neither pesticide nor chemical fertilizer residue. We suck down vitamins and supplements like water. We look for whole grains, and seek out fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets. We avoid high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, MSG, trans fats, and high-caloric foods.

We give such high regard to the care and maintenance of our physical bodies. Do we place an equal emphasis upon the care and maintenance of our minds?

Do we drink of the pure milk of Scripture? Do we labor to build up our minds with the nutritious word of God? What weight do you give to the feeding of your heart and mind?  The Scripture guides us to, “Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). It urges, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Romans 12:2).

Does it really matter what I watch? Does it matter what I listen to? Does it matter what I read? Does it matter what I say to others? Does it matter what I say to myself? Does it really matter?

God says it does. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” (James 4:4). What is the measuring stick you use? How do you evaluate your choices pertaining to entertainment, information, and conversation? Do you stay just one step outside the cultural norms, thinking, “At least I’m not __________,” or, “Compared to most people…”?

What is on your grocery list for your mind? What are on the nutrition labels of the conversations, diversions, and entertainments you consume? Do you take into account the long-term effect of the language you hear, the words you say, and the quiet thoughts you harbor? Does it matter what stirs my heart with emotion?

If I may, let me offer a few questions through which we can filter our choices:

  • Does this choice honor God and align with His character in some way?
  • Am I considering the good of someone other than me first?
  • What is the purpose of my involvement in this activity?

God has promised to draw near to us as we draw near to Him (James 4:8). May He bless you as you do just that.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

What is Lent? Should Christians observe it?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

“Lent” has been a traditional Catholic/liturgical observance, but in recent times has been gaining more traction among evangelical Christians. What is it, exactly, and why is it growing in popularity?

Lent is the period of time (40 days in length, not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday (which fell this year on Feb. 22) and Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter, and the day marking Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and Last Supper, just prior to the Friday of His passion).

The day before Lent begins is known as “Shrove Tuesday,” or more commonly “Fat Tuesday,” because it is sometimes regarded as a day of feasting and celebration before the observance of Lent. Wikipedia says: “The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer — through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

As evangelical Christians I think we must guard against the idea of “penitence” or “penance,” which would say that we must undergo some sort of suffering to pay for our sins. In His death on the cross, Jesus has paid for those sins, once and for all, burying them in the deepest sea! The idea that we could possibly pay even an iota of the sin debt we owe God, ourselves, is incredibly ignorant at best and arrogantly prideful at worst.

But I think the other things on Wikipedia’s list … prayer, repentance, almsgiving (giving to the poor), and self-denial (within reason) … can all be spiritually healthy things. While only the more liturgically-oriented among Christian churches have typically formally observed Lent, a number of Christians in less liturgically-oriented churches (such as our own) have taken up the practice informally, because they have found its benefits akin to the biblical benefits of fasting, and it helps prepare one spiritually for Easter. In fact, the 40-day period associated with Lent is thought to correspond with Christ’s 40-day fast and wilderness temptation, at the beginning of His public ministry. Many Christians therefore find Lent a good time to identify with Christ and to focus on prayer and spiritual goals.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of fasting, the concept is to deprive oneself of food or some usual practice or luxury for the purpose of devotion to prayer and spiritual goals. In my life I have occasionally used fasting to sharpen my prayer focus and to demonstrate (to the Lord) seriousness in my intent to approach Him in utter dependence for His help and intervention. Jesus gave the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) to demonstrate the importance of us praying with dogged persistence and faith. In my case, I find it useful to set a specific prayer goal and commit to the Lord that I am going to deny myself something that I normally enjoy, for a period of 40 days, in order to identify with Christ in His dependence upon His Father and to communicate the seriousness of my desire for Him to hear my entreaty.

If we do fast, though, an important point is not to do so for the sake of being seen (by others) as “spiritual!” That was what the Pharisees did. Jesus says in Matthew 6 that fasting, like prayer and giving, should be done as privately as possible, directed for God to notice, not those around us! (By the way, did you ever notice that He says there: “when you fast” … just as He says “when you pray” and “when you give.” We definitely should be practicing each of these spiritual disciplines in order to be healthy!)

Speaking of health, as an aside: I also find Lent incredibly useful for setting and achieving health goals! This year, for instance, I am committing to give up foods which I enjoy but would nonetheless probably be healthier without (red meat and pork, refined starches and carb-heavy foods, sweets/desserts, cheeses, etc.) and substituting in their place healthier foods (fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, fish and poultry, whole grains). My goal is to lose 2 pounds/week and help stabilize blood sugar and blood pressure, both of which I struggle with to a certain extent due to lifestyle and heredity issues. I am also committing to exercise an hour a day, and to use this exercise time as part of my prayer focus time.

Last year I found that by reducing calories and eating healthier, along with regular exercise, helped me to lose weight and feel stronger both physically and spiritually.

(Probably something I should do all year ’round, and not just during Lent, right? Maybe someday I will have that kind of self-discipline!)

Others I know who observe Lent have found creative ways of self-denial that don’t necessarily involve food or drink. Some give up various forms of entertainment … computer games, movies, TV or listening to music. Others give up eating out at restaurants, getting a daily coffee at Starbucks, or similar things (which also helps them save money which then can be contributed to a specific spiritual purpose!). Still others give up things which have become a habit but which they don’t necessarily consider incredibly healthy, such as social media (several friends gave up Facebook last year during Lent).

And others skip the self-denial part, but instead focus on certain spiritual goals related to giving, reading, devotion, meditation, memorization, Bible study, prayer, etc.

I think an important point is that Christ would not wish us to be “legalistic” about observances such as Lent. If it helps us sharpen the focus of our relationship with Him, then great! But it shouldn’t be a negative burden or expectation that we place on ourselves or others. He came to bring us freedom from such things.

Are you celebrating Lent this year, or have you in the past? What has been your experience? I’d love to hear more, so please comment on this blog (below), or go to Elim’s Facebook site and comment on the wall associated with this “Last Word.” I am praying that if you decide to observe Lent in some fashion, either this year or in the years to come, it will be a blessing that will move your relationship with Jesus forward in big ways!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.