Saturday, May 30, 2009

Exercise That is Good for the Body, Mind, and Spirit

As a physical therapist, I know too well the benefits of exercise, especially exercise that is used to restore physical function, and one's ability to walk. I also know of the general health benefits of exercise such as controlling weight, endurance and mood, and its therapeutic effects on heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Today however, I am going to talk about exercise that is not only good for the body, but also good for the mind and soul.

No one can dispute the bodily benefits of exercise, and even the mood enhancing properties of exercise. All this is well-documented, but little is written about the spiritual aspect of exercise. How can I exercise and make it a spiritual experience? The more popular options out there include exercising to worship songs, or meditating on scripture passages relating to "strength" and "might" while exercising. All this is good, but I found that a really good way of making exercise a spiritual experience is to go on a nature walk.

I love nature walks. Nature walks are very spiritually uplifting to me because I use it as a time to be alone with God, and to thank Him for the many things which He has created for us to enjoy on earth. During a nature walk, one can enjoy all the joys of creation away from the hustle and bustle of life and come back feeling refreshed. It is like a mini-vacation, away from all cares and problems. It is good exercise for the body, and it clears your mind of your worldly cares, and leaves you feeling spiritually refreshed, from spending time close to God in His world.

Nature walks can take many forms, and depends on the geography of the area in which you live. I live in Florida, and we are blessed with many parks, nature preserves, and beaches. Some weeks I would go walking along the beach, and then sit and watch the waves, and read a good Christian book on the sand. I might even close my eyes a little, and enjoy the sounds of nature around me, such as the waves crashing on the shore, or sit and watch the sea gulls flying. I love to see the ships and sailboats on the sea, and I enjoy seeing people splashing around in the water. Sometimes Iwould go for a swim, and play among the waves and the ebb and flow of the water. I tell you, nothing is as invigorating as day at the beach, enjoying the waters which God has created.

Another favorite of mine is going for hikes in nature preserves. I love nature preserves over a formal park because in nature preserves you can really see nature as it is, versus a park that is landscaped. I have hiked around the everglades (large swampy area in Florida), and in many of our nature parks. In these parks you can see small wildlife such as birds, squirells, and iguanas. I have encountered so many iguanas here in Florida that I have gotten used to them. Some people have encountered alligators but I have not, but I am always on the look out for them - just in case.

Another "nature walk" which I enjoy is canoeing or kayaking along the waterways here in Florida. Canoeing/kayaking can be a real adventure, as these waterways can take you out to sea! In the waterways, you can sometimes see fish, and on the shore can see crabs during crab season. I tell you all this is good and refreshing being on the water, especially during the hot, humid months.

These "nature walks" are enjoyable and really help you to connect to your Creator, and at the same time provide your body with some much needed exercise. Now these are not the only ways in which one can enjoy nature, and one can get as creative as one wants to be. How about going to the grand Canyon? How about going to the North Pole? What about skiing? How about horseback riding? How about white water rafting? How about outdoor camping? As a general rule, the more non-commercialized the event, the greater the connection to our Creator. Going on commercialized trips, for the thrills may be fun, but if there is no connection to the Creator, then it is not a true "nature walk."

Let us take time away from our busy schedules and enjoy some of these nature walks. Jesus is saying to us today, "Come ye apart into a desert place, and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).

Devotional of the Week May 31-June 6

Ephesians 6:10-18

10Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perserverance and supplication for all the saints.

Recently, I had been going through some inner turmoil and conflict that threatened to rob me of my joy in Christ. The forces of evil had launched an attack against me in my home, job, and church, and the whole thing was unsettling. Sometimes we think the problems we have are the fault of others, and while this may be true in some cases, we must remember that the enemy of our souls, Satan, is the hidden instigator of our calamities. Instead of attacking people and retaliating against them, let us try the simple tactic outlined above to restore peace.

We must first believe that God is strong and mighty (vs. 10). We must be prepared to counter lies with truth, and righteous living (vs. 14). We must be willing to make peace with others as much as possible (vs. 15). We must put our faith in God's power to overcome the enemy (vs. 16). We need to accept and cover ourselves with the salvation Christ offers, and fight back with the word of God (vs. 17). Finally, we should perserve in prayer and supplication to God for our needs, as well as for the needs of others (vs. 18).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prayers Answered

Daniel Hauser and his mother are now back, safe and sound at home. Prayers for their safety have been answered. Let us now continue to pray that Daniel be completely healed of his cancer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Devotional of the Week May 24-30

Luke 11: 14-20

"And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wandered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? Because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you."

Jesus is willing to cast out all the evil things in our lives, but yet we have the tendency to look to evil men to help us. I've often wondered why people always seem to run to people who are trying to hurt them for help! I have seen it over and over again where we go to someone for help, and the person turns around and harm us instead. Let us listen to the wisdom of Jesus. A house that is divided cannot stand but will self-destruct. Persons who have divided affections for us will eventually turn against us and destroy us and the relationship. Many of us are in self-destructive relationships with others and do not even know it. We put our full trust in others only to have the relationship blow up in our very faces, without us even suspecting anything. With Jesus, we can be assured that He will NEVER be against us. He will always have our best interests at heart.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Let Us Pray For the Hauser Family

Let our prayers today and in the coming days be for the Hauser family. Let us pray that God will protect them from harm and danger, and that Daniel will to come to grips with his disease, and find the cure which he seeks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hauser Case

Just to let everyone know that I am following the Hauser case very carefully in the news. In this case, a court ordered chemotherapy treatments for a teenager, Daniel Hauser who suffers from Hodgkins lymphoma, which is form of cancer. The problem is that the boy's family does not believe in chemotherapy, and the boy refused treatment after one treatment. His family is opting for natural cures instead. The boy and his mother are now on the run hiding from authorities.

This a case worth studying as this a case which pits religion against the law of the state, and natural cures against modern medicine. One thing is however certain: our personal belief systems based upon what we think is God's will for us, can have a strong impact on how we conduct our lives, and on how we interpret God's word.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sickness and Disease is Not Part of God's Plan For Us

I know many of you may have been a little taken aback when I said that the whole restoration of man includes restoration of the body to health. Very little connection is made in the Christian world between health and salvation. As a matter of fact, health issues are often downplayed as unimportant in the Christian walk, and are frequently treated as side issues. While it is true that our soul salvation does not depend on our state of health, it is important to know that God's plan of salvation involves salvation sin as well as its consequences. Sickness is a consequence of sin. We are sick because of sin. We live in a sinful world where germs attack the human body and render it weak or dead. We live in a world where people commit crimes against each other causing injury or death. We live in a world that is in a constant state of war, and people get injured, become ill, or are destroyed. We live in a world that is polluted with filth and toxins. And the list goes on and on.

At creation, everything existed in complete harmony. There was no sickness or ill health, "And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1: 31). After the fall of man, sin and disease entered into the world. It therefore would not be enough for Christ just to die for our sins but do nothing about the consequences. It would be like being pardoned for a crime but still having to serve jail time. That would simply not make sense. According to Acts 10:38 it says that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." Part of Jesus mission was definitely the healing of the body. We must therefore become co-workers with Him in this great mission of the restoration of bodily health, by using the means He has made available for that, which includes natural healing and miraculous healing, in addition to conventional medicine.

Now I know some will mock and say they will wait until they get to heaven to be healed; but why wait when the plan of restoration begins now? What we have failed to understand is that our eternal life is not something which begins after death, but that it begins NOW from the moment we are saved, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Our restoration therefore begins NOW, and will be completed when Christ returns, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phillipians 1:6). What needless pain and sorrow we bear just because we do not believe it is God's will for us to be healthy, "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isaiah 35: 4-6). Yes, we will not be free of sickness on this side of eternity, but the process begins now. That was why Jesus healed while on earth, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esasis the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17). Christ started the process which was predicted in the book of Isaiah.

Let us by faith believe in God's power and will for our lives to be healthy. Let us work with Him, and not against Him in the plan of restoration.

Devotional of the Week May 17- May 23

1 Corinthians 1: 4-8

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was conformed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The blessed assurance of our salvation is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. He is the one who enriches our lives with grace and knowledge. He is the one who gives us gifts. He gives us gifts of life, health, prosperity, peace, and power. He gives us spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of believers. He is the one who will confirm us before God as blameless on the day He returns.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Devotional of the Week May 10-16

Song of Solomon 6: 9

"My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and concubines, and they praised her."

What beautiful words of honor and praises to a mother-in-law! King Solomon was king over Israel, yet he appreciated the love and care that his mother-in-law had put into raising his now wife. He understood the importance of motherhood in raising well children, and he was grateful to his wife's mother for that. His wife was not only blessed by her mother, but was also blessed by other women because of the impact of her mother on her life.

Mothers, your job is an important one and should not be taken lightly. The future success of your children largely depends upon you. If it was not for the sense of discipline which my mother instilled in me from an early age, I don't know where I would be today. When I see my other brothers and sisters who were "spoiled" because they were more good looking, or because they had a father and mine was absent, and see how they did not do too well in life, I am thankful that my mother gave me what I needed to survive.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Did Jesus Really Teach That Unsanitary Practices Are OK?

In view of the ongoing swine flu outbreak, I would like to discuss a scripture which is a source of perplexity and controversy for many Christians. This is one of those "difficult sayings of the Bible" which needs to be explained. The scripture up for discussion is Matthew 15: 1-20. In this scripture, Jesus and His disciples were observed eating without first washing their hands. The Pharisees pounced upon Him, and accused Him of going against the traditional practices of cleanliness. Jesus however, then explained to them the reason why He and His disciples did not follow those practices, and ended His explanation by saying, "but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man" (Matthew 15:20). Here is the whole passage.

  1. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
  2. Why do thy disciples trangress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
  3. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
  4. For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father and mother, let him die the death.
  5. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
  6. And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
  7. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
  8. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
  9. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
  10. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand.
  11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
  12. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
  13. But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
  14. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
  15. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
  16. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
  17. Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
  18. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
  19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
  20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not man.

Jesus addressed a whole host of issues within this passage, ranging from man-made doctrines to traditional practices which conflict with God's law, to people's tendency to follow erroneous leaders, to what defiles a man, to handwashing! Wow!

Was Jesus teaching that it did not matter if we did not wash our hands before eating? How could Jesus teach this when cleanliness was a big part of Biblical doctrine, especially Old Testament doctrine, which was written by God, not man? This is therefore one of those difficult sayings of the Bible which is worthy of an explanation!

Let me first begin my explanation by saying that JESUS WAS NOT TEACHING THAT EATING WITH UNWASHED HANDS WILL NOT MAKE YOU UNHEALTHY OR SICK. We need to understand that Jesus was not preaching a health message here. He was dealing with spiritual defilement NOT bodily defilement. In the then Jewish tradition, it was believed that if a man ate his food with unwashed hands, then that person would become spiritually defiled and sinful, because they ate food that was defiled by "dirty" hands (vs. 11). The Pharisees erroneously believed that food that was "defiled" by handling would somehow make a person's soul unrighteous if it was eaten. Clearly, this is a misconception because the Bible clearly teaches that corruption of our souls is NOT CAUSED BY FOOD BUT BY SIN (vss. 18-20; Mark 7: 20-23; 1 John 1:7-9). Sin is what causes defilement of our souls, and it is sin which makes us our souls unclean before God. It is because of the uncleanliness of sin why Jesus came to cleanse our souls from sin by His sacrifice on the cross.

Here are facts and the truth of the matter. Sin will defile the soul and make the soul unclean unto God. Sin is what defiles man. Sin defiles our souls, our spirit, and even our bodies when we commit sin with our bodies. Eating polluted food will defile the BODY, not the soul. Eating polluted food may make the body unhealthy and sick, but has NO EFFECT on the inner soul (unless we purposely eat polluted food to destroy our bodies, then that would be a sin). We need to understand that we become defiled with sin when our thoughts, words, and actions are in conflict with God's will. Food enters our body through the digestive system, and the waste products are excreted (vs. 17). Food has no impact on our souls in the sense that food can make us sin or not sin. Food cannot cause us to commit sin. Any sin that we commit is not a result of the food that we have eaten, but is caused from the sin that resides in our soul. I have heard many people, even today in our modern world, say that if you eat too much beef you will end up taking on the personality of cows. I have even heard some say that meat eating causes us to take on an animal nature! Let me square with you. According to Jesus, that debased animal nature that some of us may have is not caused by food, but is a result of one's own inherent sinful nature. We all have sinful natures, although some may be more debased than some, but we are all in need in Christ to come in and change our natures from sinful to holy.

My theme scripture for this blog is 1 Thessolonians 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ." God, my friends, is interested in all three aspects of you - your spirit, soul, and body. Sin defiles your spirit, soul, and body and makes them "unclean" to God. Now while disease and sickness defiles the body in a non-spiritual sense by making it unhealthy, it does not defile your soul. Having an illness or disease does not make us "unclean" before God. Illness and disease are a consequence of living in a sinful world. True wholeness therefore involves not only restoration of the soul and spirit, but also the body from sin and its consequences. Truly, it is God's wish for us to be healthy in every way, both body and soul (3 John 2). Seeking after bodily health is a good thing! The more healthy you are, the more you can do for God with your body, and the more happier you will be in your body, and the more you will be able to enjoy life in your body. If we seek after spiritual cleanliness and righteousness, then our lives will bear the fruit of righteous living and good health!

In conclusion, Jesus was not saying that it was healthy to eat with unwashed hands. He was saying that the food that we eat cannot give us a sinful nature, but that it is the sinful thoughts in our hearts, which cause us to perform sinful acts, which defile us and make us sinful before God.

Devotional of the Week May 3-9

Psalm 86: 1-13

  1. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.
  2. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.
  3. Be merciful unto me, O LORD: for I cry unto thee daily.
  4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O lord, do I lift up my soul.
  5. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
  6. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and atend to the voice of my supplications.
  7. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
  8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto they works.
  9. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
  10. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
  11. Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
  12. I praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
  13. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.
  14. O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.
  15. But thou, O Lord art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
  16. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant,and save the son of thine handmaid.
  17. Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.