6 ESSENTIALS FOR SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH

6 ESSENTIALS FOR SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH

Two years ago I began to hit a wall.

I was run down and burned out. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord or people anymore. It wasn’t that I’d lost my passion for God’s Word, teaching the Bible, writing, or taking mission trips to the Amazon and Moldova with Justice & Mercy International.

I simply had no margin. I was so busy that there was little room for anything fresh to come in. Little was growing, and I felt as though all I was giving others were crusty leftovers.

I met with my pastor and he encouraged me to evaluate the way I was using my time. He challenged me to guard the most important tasks the Lord has given me to do and say no to what wasn’t part of that agenda. Since that meeting, I’ve recognized six things that have significantly supported my spiritual and emotional health. I’ve put them in the form of questions so you can think personally and critically about how well you’re covered in each area.

1. WHO IS TEACHING YOU?

While it sounds simple, I realized that part of my problem was that I’d stopped learning. Teachers often forget to take time to be taught. Even if you don’t consider yourself a teacher, we all need to be fed and led spiritually. In addition to being involved in a local church that feeds your soul, commit to a Bible study, take an online seminary course, listen to podcasts by teachers who point out truths from God’s Word. Continuing to learn and grow is vital to our personal refreshment.

2. WHO DO YOU PRAY WITH?

In busy seasons we tend to depend on our resources and strength to make it through, meanwhile prayer is the first thing to go. Several years ago I decided I wanted to see God do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. I wanted to be an intercessor for others who are hurting, sick or stuck. And because I love what I do, I also wanted to make sure I have a stronger relationship with Jesus than I have with my ministry. Prayer has been the game-changer for me in these areas. Whether it’s praying alone in the mornings or praying with a group, this is where the supernatural happens.

Whether it’s praying alone in the mornings or praying with a group, this is where the supernatural happens.Click To Tweet So make a commitment to be renewed and encouraged in prayer, and don’t allow it to be edged out by busyness.

3. WHO REFRESHES YOU?

Who builds you up? Who listens intently to you? Who makes you laugh? Who encourages you especially as it relates to your relationship with Christ?

The Apostle Paul described his friends Onesiphorus and Philemon as people who refreshed him (2 Timothy 1:16, Philemon 1:20). I love that word refreshed. It can mean “to cool and refresh by a breath.”¹ Soon I’ll be flying to New Jersey to visit friends who have been missionaries in Italy for nearly 40 years. They’re older in the faith than I am, have a fantastic sense of humor, inspire me in my relationship with Christ, and they cook me authentic Italian meals. Being in their presence fills me up and renews me so I have more to give when I return. How can you proactively schedule time to be with those who refresh you?

4. WHO CAN YOU BE COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT WITH?

We all have to have people in our lives with whom we can share our struggles, doubts, fears, even our sins (James 5:16). That last one might seem a little over-the-top, but my friends and I often confess our bad attitudes, ask one another for forgiveness, or simply talk about the struggles we’re having. One of the enemy’s oldest tricks is leading us to believe that we can’t tell anyone what’s really going on inside us. 

One of the enemy’s oldest tricks is leading us to believe that we can’t tell anyone what’s really going on inside us. Click To TweetJesus, on the other hand, desires that we live in the light. I’m so thankful that part of His plan to accomplish this is through safe and open relationships where we can be truly known with the best and worst parts of ourselves out in the open. While you may have lots of relationships, make sure you have a trusted few with whom you can be completely honest and transparent.

5. WHAT ACTIVITIES REFRESH YOU?

It’s taken me many years to discover that I’m a much better friend, family member, and person in ministry when I’ve taken time for rejuvenation. When I race from commitment to commitment without any margin I’m no good to anyone. For me, hobbies like gardening, cooking and long walks are restorative to my soul. I don’t have to think too hard in these spaces and ironically it’s in the midst of these activities that some of my best thoughts come to me. I’ve learned to be intentional about guarding time for activities that feed my body, mind and spirit. Ask yourself what you love to do and make some time for it.

6. WHAT DOES SOLITUDE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

One of the worst assaults on our spiritual and emotional health is our addiction and connection to television, the Internet, and social media. Without being intentional it’s nearly impossible to disconnect from our phones and computers, even for brief periods. Times of solitude are so foreign that they can make us feel uncomfortable. We can even grow anxious with that much “peace”. But solitude is vital for quieting our souls and the voices around us so we can hear from God. I emerge from periods of solitude with calm and clarity that are simply impossible to find in the midst of busyness.


¹ Schweizer, E., Bertram, G., Dihle, A., Tröger, K.-W., Lohse, E., & Jacob, E. (1964–). ψυχή, ψυχικός, ἀνάψυξις, ἀναψύχω, δίψυχος, ὀλιγόψυχος. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictinary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 9, p. 663). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

This post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com

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Jesus, Our Intercessor

Jesus, Our Intercessor

Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.”

 Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us.”

This is the 28th day of Lent, and we have 19 more days until Easter. I’m pointing this out because I want us to press in! If you had high hopes for this Lenten season but have fallen off your fasting wagon, or you haven’t prayed as much as you’d hoped, or you’ve just gotten busy and distracted, you can pick back up right now. The goal isn’t to get to Easter and realize how amazing and disciplined you are. The goal is to grow more deeply in love with Jesus. You can get back at it today.

As we continue our focus on the Person of Jesus, I want us to reflect on Him as our intercessor. The word can mean to mediate between two parties, particularly the act of praying to God on behalf of another person. I love this quote about Christ as our intercessor, “the believer may know that he is not left in helpless isolation. There is an ἐντυγχάνειν [Intercessor] for him which reaches up to the very top.”[1]

Right now, you may need an intercessor to go between you and your parents, your boss, your spouse, your professor, the judge, the president. But you also need an intercessor all the way to the very top—all the way to God. There’s simply no intercessor more important in heaven or on earth than the One who can stand on your behalf before God. The author of Hebrews tells us that His name is Jesus.

There’s simply no intercessor more important than the One who can stand on your behalf before God.Click To Tweet

From a purely practical standpoint, I’ve been in a challenging season. I’ve felt alone and lacked the help I need in certain areas. This is not a woe-is-me cry for help. (Although I’m not above crying for help, and my friends are sick of hearing about it.) This is just to say that these past few months made me more sensitive to the reality of Jesus as Intercessor. My own frailty made me more appreciative that not only does He care about my day-to-day reality, but He stands before God on my behalf.

At times, the faintest thought of my past sin made me aware of how impossible it would be for me to stand before God on my own merit. Our guilt in particular exposes how desperately we need an Intercessor between us and God the Father. As we study Christ in the book of Hebrews, we see that one of the reasons that Jesus took our sin on Himself, died on the cross, rose from the grave, forgave us, and now stands before God is so He can be just this. Our Intercessor. So He can say to God, She’s with me. She’s covered. She’s Ours.

Who could possibly be a more worthy or powerful or just or righteous or good Intercessor before God on your behalf than Jesus? Reflect on these two passages in Hebrews and spend some time in prayer thanking Jesus, our Intercessor.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  1. Who has been a human intercessor for you in your life? What did he or she do for you, and what did it mean to you?
  2. As you think about Christ appearing in the presence of God on your behalf, what means the most to you about this reality? Why?
  3. God the Father knew that we needed a Savior, so He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. As you appreciate Jesus as your Intercessor before God, specifically thank God the Father for sacrificing His Son so that Jesus could be our Intercessor. Praise and thank both God and Jesus.
  4. Without overly focusing on past sin, for what season of life are you most grateful to know you’ve been forgiven and have an Intercessor in Jesus?
  5. What means the most to you about Hebrews 7:25 and 9:24 and why?

[1] Bauernfeind, O. (1964–). τυγχάνω, ἐντυγχάνω, ὑπερεντυγχάνω, ἕντευξις. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 8, p. 243). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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Jesus, Our Brother

Jesus, Our Brother

Every week leading up to Easter, I’m sending out devotions on the Person of Jesus. If you’d like to receive the rest of these devotions in your inbox, you can sign up here.

Key Verses for Lent

Hebrews 2:10-18 “For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—for whom and through whom all things exist—should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying: I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; I will sing hymns to you in the congregation. Again, I will trust in him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me. Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”

Jesus, Our Brother

As we enter the third week of Lent and turn our attention specifically to the Person of Jesus, I want to dwell on Christ as our Brother. Isn’t that an interesting term for Him? We often think of Jesus as Savior, Redeemer, Ruler, or King, but when’s the last time we really thought about Him as our Brother? The more I reflect on Hebrews chapter 2, the more I realize how meaningful this is—not just from a theological standpoint, but also from a deeply personal one. The fact that Jesus is our Brother brings Him right to our doorstep, meets us right where we’re at, in the middle of our heartache and joy.

Jesus as Brother comes right to our doorstep, meets us where we're at, in our heartache & joy.Click To Tweet

I have a brother. The last few weeks I’ve helped my brother coach my nephew’s 7 year-old basketball practice. If you’ve never had the distinct privilege of wrangling second grade boys who are attempting to play basketball while employing limbs they can’t yet control, I highly recommend it. It’s the most exhausting 60 minutes you’ll ever spend, meaning you’ll have a fresh appreciation for all other activities in your day (like scrubbing the mildew from your shower tiles). You only do this kind of stuff for a brother you love. For a brother who loves you.

Jesus is the Brother Who Gives Us Our Father

My brother is my brother because we share the same parents. Similarly, the author of Hebrews explains that Jesus is our Brother because we share the same Father, who is God. But how can this be possible? We weren’t born having God as our Father. Only Jesus can call God “Father.”

The author continues to explain. Jesus is the only one who can sanctify us (cleanse us from our sin), and once we’re sanctified by Jesus we then have the same Father He has. If we have the same Father as Jesus, that makes Jesus our Brother. From a human perspective, children are related to one another because of the parents they share. From a spiritual perspective, God is our Father because of the Brother we share—Jesus. We have access to the Father because of our Brother, who is Christ.

The term brother here can also mean someone who has deep affection for us, someone who’s a friend—not just someone who loves us because they have to, because we’re related.

Jesus is Not Ashamed to Call Us His Brothers and Sisters

Shame is nothing new, but in recent years it’s stolen the spotlight. Shame is everywhere you turn. We carry around shame because we don’t feel like we measure up, because of past abuse, wounding words spoken over us, rejection from someone we loved or looked up to. We also bear it as a result of our own doing—the actions we’ve taken, or didn’t take, that have caused us shame are more than we can bear.

The people during the time of Hebrews also understood shame. Their society put a premium on honor and status for oneself and one’s family. Shame was to be avoided at all costs. The people to whom Hebrews was addressed in particular were being persecuted and shamed in their society. (We find this out later in Hebrews.) Even though they were being mocked, Jesus wasn’t ashamed of them. On the contrary, He testified about God to them and proclaimed praise to the Lord in the congregation with His brothers and sisters.

Can you see the solidarity this shows between Jesus and us? This is intimate, family unity here. Though you may have suffered or even caused shame, He’s not ashamed of you. He identifies with you before God and in the community of the saints! You have access to the Father because you’re with Him, your Brother, who loves you and gave His life for you.

Though you may have suffered or even caused shame, He’s not ashamed of you.Click To Tweet

Jesus is the Brother Who Shares in Our Suffering

The Christian faith is truly unique in that God descended to us in the form of human flesh and blood. And not only did He descend, but He also suffered on our behalf. He tasted death for us, His brothers and sisters. He suffered beyond the farthest stretches of our imaginations and the farthest reaches of our own suffering.

What I find particularly meaningful is that His suffering has made Him merciful toward us. He sympathizes with our weakness and heartache. He’s lived the gamut of the human experience, or as the great hymn Crown Him With Many Crowns puts it, “Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast.” When He suffered He was also temped, so He’s able to help those in the throes of temptation. He’s able to help you exactly where you are.

As we continue to set our sights on Easter and the different aspects of Jesus and His character, be encouraged today. You have a Savior. You have a Redeemer, Ruler, and King. But did you know that you also have a Brother?

You have a Redeemer, Ruler, and King. But did you know that you also have a Brother?Click To Tweet

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

1. What means the most to you about having Jesus as your Brother?

2. What specifically did you learn about Jesus through this passage that you never knew or thought of before?

3. How does Jesus as Your Brother cause you to think about Him in a different light? In other words, Brother is different—but not mutually exclusive—from Redeemer, Savior, King, or Ruler.

4. Why do you think it is important that Jesus is a Brother who suffered with and for us?

 5. Explain how the reality that Jesus is not ashamed of you is healing, encouraging, and empowering. How can this truth change the way you live?

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The Beautiful Irony of Fasting – Lent Devotion

The Beautiful Irony of Fasting – Lent Devotion

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sending devotions out to guide you through the Lenten season. Each Lent devotion will provide a brief analysis of Scripture and reflection questions. I pray these will be a source of encouragement and inspiration as you walk through the season leading up to Easter. Sign up on the form at the bottom of this post to receive weekly Lenten devotions delivered straight to your inbox. 

Introduction

A couple of years ago, I did the Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory. I drank only water and ate essentially lettuce and rice for 30 days. (I checked the rules and coffee didn’t count as water, so I almost died.) During that fast, I needed some direction and had pressing aches in my life that I wanted the Lord to address and fix. But during that time, I sensed Jesus saying, “Don’t seek the fix; seek My face.”

I sensed Jesus saying, 'Don’t seek the fix; seek My face.'Click To Tweet

This was a bit of a new angle for me because having grown up in the church, I’m actually pretty skilled at seeking Christian fixes, ideals, and disciplines. In other words, I’ve learned how to seek Christianity. But seeking only Jesus? I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. Seeking Him simply for who He is—not necessarily what He could do for me or give to me—was somewhat new territory. It turned out to be exactly what I needed.

As we step toward spring and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ over the next 46 days of Lent, my prayer is that we’ll seek Jesus. Simply Jesus. In an effort to help you on that journey, I’ll be sending out a devotion on the Person of Jesus every Wednesday between now and Easter.

Over the next 46 days of Lent, my prayer is that we’ll seek Jesus. Simply Jesus.Click To Tweet

I know many of you are coming through the thick of an icy winter desperate for a fix, a healing, a spotlight of direction, a miracle, a green bud on the branch. In seeking the face of Jesus you won’t be ignoring or abandoning those longings, rather you’ll be affirming that Jesus is the greatest need of your life.

In preparation for seeking His face with a more intent focus, I encourage you to fast in some form. A true fast would be to abstain from certain types of food or food altogether for an allotted time each week during Lent (as your doctor determines is good for your health). You may instead choose to give up television, social media, streaming movies, etc. Whatever you decide, the irony and beauty of fasting is that when you set aside something that brings you comfort, pleasure, or sustenance, God is faithful to grow something new in its place.

Lent Devotion 1: A Speaking Savior

 Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word…”

One of the very first things the author tells us is that God is a speaking God. And not only a God who speaks but One who speaks to us. Look back at verse 1:1 with me. We discover that a really long time ago, back when the Old Testament prophets were alive, God spoke!  Who did He speak to? The people of God under the old covenant (fathers). How did He speak? By the prophets. But now, in “these last days” that we’re living in—during the date on your calendar, in your city, on the street you live in, within your church community—God has spoken. He’s no longer speaking through the prophets; rather, He’s spoken through His Son Jesus.

I’m a communicator by nature. I like to communicate to others and like to be communicated to. This is sometimes to the dismay of my closest friends who occasionally like to not discuss every single thing under the sun. Sometimes they want to just be with me—something I do not understand when we could be conversing and figuring things out! So I find it particularly meaningful that the God I serve is a speaking God and that He’s chosen to speak specifically through Jesus.

Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that Jesus has something to say, and He has something to say to us. Both through His actual words as recorded in Scripture and through the statement He made by His death on the cross and resurrection for our forgiveness and salvation. We know from other portions of Scripture He also speaks to us through His Holy Spirit.

What do you need to hear today? What do you need communicated to you? What if I reframed the question slightly: Who do you most need to hear from today? Is it not Jesus?

In verse 3, we find out another revelation about the speaking voice of Jesus: The whole world is sustained by “his powerful word.” This can be hard to understand when we think about the pain and chaos in our world right now and in our own country. Most of us don’t even have to look that broadly—we have unsolvable problems and divisiveness in our own communities, families, friendships and marriages. In the midst of what feels so tumultuous, Hebrews tells us that Jesus is personally involved and sustaining all things.

Take some time to reflect on this.

The word “sustaining” here means to uphold and gives the sense that Jesus is personally carrying things forward to their “appointed end or goal.” As unruly as things are, until He returns to set everything right, He’s still ruling and reigning. He has not left you. One scholar put it like this: The author of Hebrews “is not referring to the passive support of a burden like the Greek god Atlas bearing the dead weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather, the language implies a ‘bearing’ that includes movement and progress towards an objective.”[1] In other words, the person of Jesus has not lost control of our world or your world. He is intimately involved by the power of His word.

As we begin this season of Lent by reflecting on Jesus, I’m grateful that God has spoken through Jesus. That He’s spoken to us. And that the spoken word of Jesus is personally carrying and sustaining all the things. That He has not left us on our own and tells us so.

Questions for Reflection or Discussion

  1. What is particularly meaningful to you about God having spoken to you through Jesus?
  2. Why do we often find it hard to silence the noise around us for the voice of Jesus? How can this season of Lent be different?
  3. What do you think is different about God having spoken through the prophets versus now having spoken to us through Jesus?
  4. In what specific ways are you encouraged to know that Jesus is sustaining all things by the power of His Word?
  5. Spend some quiet time in prayer and praise God that He’s not silent but speaks to us through Jesus.

[1] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews (pp. 56–57). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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