RAISING HAPPIER ADULTS

What are your hopes and dreams for your children and grandchildren? 

Do you hope they possess good mental health?  I can’t believe you would want them to have depression, low self-esteem, discontent, or anxiety disorders.  

Do you hope to encourage their physical well-being?  Again I can’t believe you would cheer them to take up smoking, alcohol, drugs, or promiscuous sex; all of which would diminish their physical health.

Parents and Grandparents, what do you insist your children do to set them up for this life?  Sports, school, good friends?  What sacrifices do you make so your children live a better life than you?

Do you want to help your child succeed in life? Pass on a living faith in Jesus Christ.

While all kinds of factors impact what happens in a child’s life, one of the most significant factors to improve and safeguard the mental health and physical well-being of our children is for parents to pass on their faith to their children.

A recent study by Harvard University’s School of Public Health found kids raised going regularly to church grow up to be happier adults.  The study explored the association of the religious involvement of children and teens with their mental health and physical well-being as young adults. The study was published by the American Journal of Epidemiology which is dedicated to research related to health and well being.  Empirical research suggests that religion is associated with better health and well-being in adults.

When they say “religious involvement” they mean weekly worship attendance and regular or daily devotional times in children’s lives. The researchers found found little difference existed between “never attending” and “less than weekly” attendance to move the needle on many of the measurements of mental and physical health.

When we talk about attendance, we are not talking about the kids being dropped off.  To effectively pass on our religious values and practices “occurs largely through parental modeling”.  Am I saying going to worship and praying together are the magic ticket? No. But spiritual growth helps all of us run this life race with perseverance and come out ahead.  As the apostle Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7; cf. 1 Cor 9:24-27, Acts 20:24, Gal 5:7, Heb 12:1)

Attending worship was associated with greater life satisfaction and positive affect, greater volunteering, greater sense of mission, more forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation. Being involved in the faith community was linked to a wide range of positive outcomes, such as greater psychological well-being, character strengths, reduced mental illness, and healthier behaviors.

To cut to the point. You want to help your kids run this race with perseverance? You want them to have a mental and physical edge over this world that is unkind and unfair? Put them in the lap of Jesus who calls on you: “Bring the little ones to me, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.”(Mark 10:14)  

May we continue to grow in the grace and knowing Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. (2 Peter 3:18)

Your servant in Christ, Pastor Douglas

SUMMER SABBATH

Entering into June we all look forward to time relaxing and resting. We take time to relax our bodies and our minds. As human beings we need downtime because we can only work and be fruitful out of our rest. We need a restoration from the stressors and obstacles. We need rest from every day’s toil. When we are rested we are more productive.

In the midst of all the toils and trials, you also need rest for your soul. If your soul is exhausted and dragged down, how will you find the strength?   Jesus says to you: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my [teaching] upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

As you are lounging by the lake, watching your bobber from the boat, or soaking up the sun, how are you refeshing your soul this summer?  Finding refreshment for your soul is not found in a worship-less barcalounger or reclining in some spiritless vacuum. Don’t use summer as an excuse to avoid worship and shun restoration for your soul.

The balm to sooth your soul is found reclining in God (Hebrews 4:1-11).  “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11)  Maybe, just maybe, summer sabbath is the best time to rest in the LORD because you are ready to relax; to be still.

Soaking in the LORD to absorb the peace may be easier in the midst of a slower summer pace. When you enter into the downtime of worship; when you are still and recline in the LORD, you will find the restoration of your life needs.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you rest in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). When you abide and rest in God, you are empowered to bring forth great fruitfulness in your life.

 ”Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1, see also Ps 91:1)

Your servant in the Gospel, Pastor Douglas

Wholly Lit Up

How does your outlook or perspective on life impact your well-being?  A pissy mood makes for a pissy day, right?  Jesus put it even more starkly:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt 6:22–23).

Your well-being or mental wellness is your capacity to exercise your abilities, cope with the normal life stressors, work productively and make a contribution to the lives of others. Your mental wellness is your interconnected emotional, psychological and social wellness or wellbeing. So, how can you improve your well-being? How does your wholeness go from dark to light?  Improve your faith-being.

Actively living out your faith in Christ contributes significantly to being mentally healthy. Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12 -NLT) Truly the more your life is connected to and imitates Jesus Christ, the more your mental health improves.

Gratitude:  Being thankful is essential for life contentment. When we live gratefully we are better empowered to cope better in all circumstances (Phil 4:11, 1 Thess 5:8).  Knowing we are saved from death by Christ gives us a foundation of thanksgiving.

Forgiveness: People who are forgiven and forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives. Forgiveness allows us to let go of grievences and resentments. Every week you have access to the work of confessing and cleansing your sins.   When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart; your sins are forgiven.” (Matt 9:2).

Love:  Knowing you are loved gives you a value and worth. Feeling love enables you to love others. People who feel loved, trusted and accepted by others are far more likely to have good self-esteem. They are also more likely to feel comfortable, safe and secure, and are better able to communicate and develop positive relationships with others. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

Joy:   Studies show laughing decreases pain, may help your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation and can reduce anxiety. The key to your joy, however, is found not in yourself, but in Christ your Lord. As Paul says, “So you too should be joyful and rejoice with me.” (Phil 2:18)  Joy is the essence of God’s goodness. When you trust Jesus Christ is yours and you are his, then we can know that no matter what happens we are blessed. Jesus wants your joy to be complete (John 15:11).

Sabbath: Rest and unplugging from our constant busyness and incessant agitation are required for mental health. Not only do you need sleep, you need Sabbath rest. Sabbath is where you stop spinning all the plates and trust the LORD can run this world without you. Sabbath rest is not an obligation, but a gift for you. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” (Heb 4:9)

Belonging:  A sense of belonging cannot be separated from our physical and mental health. When you feel you have support and are not alone, you can cope more effectively with difficult times. If you belong to Christ Jesus through faith you are a child of God and belong to the family of God (Gal 3:26-29). “Nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39)

Invest in your own mental wellness by participating in your faith community which offers the blessings of gratitude, forgiveness, love, joy, rest, and belonging. The more you invest in your faith the more the investment of yourself will produce the fruit of your own well-being.  Let the light of Christ light up your life.

Out of his glorious riches, may the Father strengthen you with power in your inner being through the Spirit so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.(Eph 3:16-17)

Your servant in the Gospel,

Pastor Douglas Schoelles

Abide in Me

What does it mean to Abide in God?   This scripture can be very confusing. “Abide in me as I abide in you.” This abiding seems to go ‘round in circles and can leave your head spinning.  To abide in God is to come closer to Him, to take on His character.

                There are a couple of humorous sayings that speak to this.  “You can always recognize a genius….  he’s the one with the same views as your own” and – “The apple never falls far from the tree”

                In both of these sayings we see the thoughts or actions of one person bringing them closer to another. In the same way we can get closer to God. If we let God shape our thoughts and actions we become more and more like Him, and as children of the heavenly Father, we won’t fall far from the tree.

The apostle John says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they [live] in God.” (1 John 4:15)

    So how do we grow closer to God? “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)   One word jumps out again and again; “LOVE”.  It sounds so simple and yet often times there’s nothing more difficult. In every situation to look like Jesus means to choose love. Not any kind of love. The Love that Jesus models looks like the cross.

“We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  God loves us unconditionally, despite all the awful things we have done. He continues to Love us. Yet, his love also confronts us for our selfish and rebellious way. Love is not being a push over or weak willed. Love required the strength of God to hold Jesus onto the cross. Love is strong.

                If you say you love God, how will you love God? Will you love God’s values and actions?  Will you love being with God in prayer, scripture and worship?  Love is not an empty sentiment, but a commitment that takes action. Love is a worldview that permeates how we see others.

                “God has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:21).   If we seek to love others the way God loves us, we will become closer to others. As we become closer to others we become closer to God. Then one more miraculous thing happens, the closer we get to God, the more we abide in Him and He abides in us.

               This abiding in love means abiding in God does kind of go around in circles. Perhaps we can think of it this way; Love leads to love leads to love leads to love. Let’s keep the Love cycle spinning.

May you live a life worthy of the Lord, and may you please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in knowing God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully give thanks to the Father. (Col 1:10-12)

  • Your servant in Christ, Pastor Douglas

Lazarus Raiser (John 12:9-19)

Lazarus Raiser (John 12:9-19). A raised Lazarus is a problem for the powers of Death. This donkey riding Jesus is the King who raises the dead. Nothing brings faith like dead lives restored to new life through the Gospel.

LOSS & GRIEF

My heart has been broken so many times. My heart was broken when I was a child, a teenager, and an adult. My heart has been broken as a friend, boyfriend, pastor, husband, and father. How many times has your heart been hurt? And how many times have I hurt someone else?

Loss is unavoidable in this life. You can’t be bubbled wrapped and live a real life. You can’t avoid loss and pain because it is inevitable. In this life with other humans, with our own neediness, and with the march of time transition, changes and disappointments are unescapable. Loss is predestined as our frail bodies move towards their end.

We lament and shake our fists at God asking why we have to suffer such disappointments. Yet we rarely cement our character when we are at the party. When we go through the valleys of this life our character deepens and we become stronger.

The apostle Paul speaks about how in the depths of our losses God is working. “We [boast] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5)

While we cannot avoid losses, we can choose to avoid grief. When we avoid grief we are damaging ourselves. For grief is a truly a gift from God to help us move through the losses of this life. We are supposed to feel something. The worst thing we can do is to stuff our grief and pretend the loss did not happen. When we stuff our grief, it comes out sideways in unhealthy and neurotic behavior.

Grief can also be holy. The LORD grieves over the sin and rebellion of this world (Isa 63:10, Jer 8:21).  The Father grieves over the death of His Son on the cross for the sin of this hurting world (Zech 12:10). Christ grieves over this sin-filled world from His Cross. Grief is an emotion from God to mourn over the hurt and loss of what is sacred and valuable.

So, for us Lent is a time to grieve over our broken relationship with God. Grieving over our sins will lead us to healing and wholeness. For the LORD repeatedly promises to turn our grief into joy (John 16:20). So we can grieve with confidence that the LORD will comfort us and give us joy and praise instead of mourning and despair (Isa 61:2-3)

“We loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV)

Pastor Douglas

Our Spiritual Hospital

 As human beings we are more than just the one dimension of our physical being. We all recognize our emotional and spiritual health impacts our physical health. The LORD creates as whole beings. Jesus reminds us that we are to love the LORD our God with our body, mind and spirit. (Mt 22:37)

Jesus Christ told us, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:14-17)  “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Matt 4:23). He also conferred this healing power onto his disciples who he sent out and they “anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:13) 

The Church is a Hospital for sinners “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). We offer healing services offered no where else. Your church is a hospital to bring you God’s healing and promote your well-being. We offer therapies that are not offered anywhere else in our society.

A study from the University of Rochester showed that 85 percent of people who face a major illness turn to prayer … and it works. Studies have shown that prayer and meditation can bolster your immune system, meaning fewer days laid up in bed with the flu and more days out living your life. Daily spiritual exercises can bring long term benefits and wholeness to your body, mind and spirit.

As society we have not an honest discussion about all the damage the lockdowns are causing. We are not discussing the spikes in suicides, opioid deaths, and homicides. We are not talking about the sharp increases in substance abuse and domestic abuse of spouses or children. Polling has shown the effects of loneliness and depression upon the entire populace.

We all recognize depression is a common condition that can lead to self-harm and substance abuse. Spiritual fellowship, however, has been shown to help people who suffer from depression because it eliminates isolation, which is a major cause of many mood disorders.

Churches are needed during this time because people are so spiritually ill. This spiritual illness is affecting their physical health and immunity. The gathering of God’s people is a needed remedy, maybe not for everyone, but for many.

Remember the woman who was bleeding and had exhausted her life savings. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:21)  In this time when we have exhausted so much of our emotional capital we need the spiritual replenishment that comes from the LORD and from the LORD alone.

The LORD promises to bind up your wounds; whether those wounds our physical, emotional or spiritual. So, come to the hospital where you can meet with the Great Physician. “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 30:17)

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened  so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and  his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)   

– Your servant in the Gospel, Pastor Douglas

CHRISTMAS COURAGE

Far from the jingle bells and dancing plums the events leading to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ were filled with fright. Mary and Joseph were both fearful of the path the LORD called them to take. After his birth the Christ child was threatened with death as the wretched King Herod sought to exterminate the newborn king.

The story of the Nativity is glued together with courage and faith in the face of fear. And not just for Joseph and Mary. The LORD enters into this world of idolatry as an infant. The Incarnation is the bold act of God becoming vulnerable. The boldness of God to come in the flesh results in conflicts throughout the Gospels.

The vulnerability of Christ culminates when Roman and Jewish leaders utilize death to threaten Jesus to cry “uncle” and renege on being the Word made flesh. These enemies of the Kingdom utilize death to silence the Prince of Peace. For Jesus death on the cross is real. As fully human he must decide who he fears more; who he trusts more.

Over this past year for our god-less world the reality of death has plunged billions of people into fear. As this world does not have the LORD God to fear and trust, it has only death to fear. It is the godless’ ultimate god. The lack of belief has made death an idol. We have idolized death as we have given it our fear.

BUT we, you and I, the people of God, are to fear and love the Lord our God. “What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 10:12–Ps 103:17).

Yes, death is real. In spite of all our medicine and creature comforts, death never stopped being our enemy.

But with boldness the LORD became vulnerable in the flesh under the curse of death. With boldness and courage Christ took on our sin and death so we can freely approach his throne of grace (Eph 3:12).

The Word of God died on the cross and raised from the dead so we with all boldness and courage may live lives of God’s grace. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7).

  • Are you reeling in fear?
  • What are the fears tormenting you?
  • How are you taking these fears to the Lord?
  • Are you listening to the Word of God?

”Who among you fears the Lord and obeys His word? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.” (Isaiah 50:10)

Like you I am seeking to rely on my God.

Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Douglas Schoelles

Cocooning (Numbers 32:1-27)

d86450912ccc32cc82f5b188a0a1b14eCocooning is that urge to just take care of you and yours. We undergoing a huge surge in cocooning. It is all the rave being pushed by media and influencers and all sorts of folks.

But we don’t need much of a push to want to hunker down and ignore the world out there.

As the twelve tribes are on the verge of leaving the wilderness journey and traverse the Jordan River, two tribes decide they’re good. They are fine where they are and do not want to travel any further.

“The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and said, “let this land be given . . . as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.” (Numbers 32:1-5)

They want their inheritance now (v. 19). They do not want to wait to settle in. They want to take care their economic well-being. They want to protect their women and children.

Now, these are not bad inclinations. These are the responsible inclinations of family leaders looking after their own.

Problem is that they were not just on their own. They belong to the whole family of God, the twelve tribes of Israel, that Moses has led these many years.

This obstinate, rebellious people has vexed the LORD. Moses points out that when the LORD invited them to go forward into a new land, their leaders were among the worst who discouraged the Israelites from trusting the LORD.

Moses calls them out. “Here you are, you brood of sinners”; once again you are talking about turning away from following him – because you want to just to get your finances going and your families protected. You want your inheritance, your promise from the LORD now, and will abandon the other tribes to fend for themselves.

Backed into a corner, looking selfish and foolish, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, offer a solution. They agree to go with the rest of Israel in their struggle against their foes. They agree they will accompany them in their journey to receive the LORD’s inheritance.

As Christians we have received our inheritance from the LORD. We have received the riches of his glorious inheritance of the Kingdom of Christ (Eph 1:14, 18, 5:5, 1 Cor 15:50, 1 Pet 1:4)

The Father . . . has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:12).

As people loyal to Christ, we cannot simply sit back satisfied that we got ours. As the people of God we are never called to cocoon to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of this unpredictable, sin-soaked world. To simply sit back, to do so is sinning against the Lord (v.23).

Rather, as a baptized Christ follower, you have received your inheritance so you are called to struggle with others to receive theirs. You receive your inheritance of the Kingdom to be empowered to struggle with others and help others.

  • Who do you need to walk alongside of that is in a spiritual battle?
  • What boundaries do you need to cross over to fight the spiritual foe?

 

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Pastor Douglas

 

THERE BE GIANTS (Numbers 13-14)

report-of-the-spies-and-remonstrance-of-Caleb

This year has been tumultuous. The coronavirus pandemic, the resulting shutdown of public life, an economic crisis with record levels of unemployment, incidents of police brutality and racial tensions, and urban rioting. Add to this rumors of murder hornets, meth laced alligators, and a presidential election.

We all are overwhelmed. Many want to go back to normal. Go back to the way it used to be. Others see this as an opportunity for reset. To re-evaluate our priorities. To reassess the way we relate to one another.

We all agree that the challenges we face are overwhelming. They are huge. We are facing giants we feel unable to control. We are facing giants we are afraid will crush us.

In the midst of this fear, where do we turn?  Many are self-medicating. Alcohol and drug sales have skyrocketed. Comfort food is adding pounds. Suicide hotlines are overwhelmed.

Not long after Moses leads the people out of slavery through the Red Sea into the wilderness the LORD instructs Moses to send scouts to check out the promised land where they are supposed to be heading (Numbers 13).

They are sent to find out what kind of people live there? what kind environment it is? Is this a fertile place or unfruitful place. They are report back and bring some evidence of what they find.

Ten of the twelve scouts report the land is fruitful. But the land is filled with giants. These giants are powerful. The strongholds are enormous and hardened and entrenched.(Num 13:26-28)

Two of the twelve were the young men Caleb and Joshua. They agree with everything the other ten say. The land is fruitful. The land is filled with giants. The strongholds are immense, entrenched and hardboiled.

But they reach different conclusions. The ten say, “we can’t take this on. The problems are stronger than we are.”(Num 13:31) They spread this dispiriting attitude. They even exaggerate it. They make themselves look even smaller.

These men who only see through their limitations cause the rest of the community to go into panic (Num 14:1-4) The community is restless, worried and weeping out loud. They grumble against Moses and Aaron. They move onto blaming God. “Why didn’t you just kill us in Egypt? Wouldn’t it be better if we just went back to being slaves?”

Caleb and Joshua had a different vision. “We should go and take possession.” They knew they could face down the giants. They knew they could take on the hardened strongholds. They knew they could do it because the LORD promised to lead them, to take them through the giants and strongholds.

Which vision do you think won out?  (Numbers 14:26-35)

As Christians we know that even death does not stand in the way of God. We have been connected to God through our baptisms “for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)  If God has taken down the strongholds of sin, death and the devil, we can walk in faith through any tumult. We can face any giant.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Pastor Douglas

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