There is a trend in churches today to offer wellness and physical exercise programs within their walls. Some churches have gyms where members and those in the community can work out, and some offer fitness classes on a regular basis. For instance, since 2011 St. Enoch Lutheran Church in Kannapolis, NC, has been offering an hour-long class that incorporates dance, weights, Christian music and closes with a devotion and a prayer (Strybis, Erin, “Fit and Faithful,” Living Lutheran, January 2019, 15).
These sorts of programs help to build community and connections among members and others outside the church. They encourage healthy living and self-care of the bodies God has given us, these “temples of the Holy Spirit” we have been blessed with (1 Corinthians 6:19). The programs also foster and encourage discipline.
Just as we need to exercise our bodies on a regular basis, we need to exercise our souls. Exercising our souls on a regular basis through prayer, reading Scripture, Bible study, small group ministry and worship keeps our spiritual selves healthy and strong. Like physical exercise, there is a discipline to it that is not always something we are good at. But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can keep at it. Think of the Holy Spirit as your trainer, always reminding you and encouraging you to keep going and to remember the benefits that come from regular exercising of our souls: a closer relationship with our Savior, a confidence and hope in him and a joy that lasts forever. Keep exercising your soul this week and see how your spirit is uplifted and stays fit.
Many of my friends say that instead of listening to the radio in the car anymore, they are listening to podcasts. While I have heard of podcasts, I am not as well-versed in them as I am other technology outlets. Believe it or not, podcasting is having an impact on the Church.
For those who may not know, the word podcast is a combination of the words iPod and broadcast. Though most people do not use iPods for mobile listening, the use of the word has stuck. Simply put, a podcast is an audio segment downloaded to your smartphone that you can listen to wherever you are whenever you want
Even in the Entertainment Weekly magazine I subscribe to, there is now a podcast section for subscribers to read about the latest podcasts out there to listen to, as you would your favorite streaming TV show.
Since listening to and looking for podcasts is becoming such a common practice in our current culture, it is a perfect opportunity for the Church to offer something in this arena as well. Worship, Bible studies, sermons, Sunday school classes, devotional reading and prayer petitions can all become podcasts that people who cannot make it to church on Sundays or those who are homebound can access when they have time available.
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This summer I attended a garden tour in my community and got to see many interesting plants and flowers. One of the interesting concepts that caught my attention was that there are particular plants that are called attractors because they attract butterflies. Not just any plant attracts any butterfly, but only certain plants attract very particular butterflies. For instance, black-eyed Susans are known attractors of Monarch butterflies, asters attract Painted Lady butterflies, and zinnias draw Swallowtail butterflies.
It strikes me that this idea could be applied to our Christian witness. First of all, are we living as Christian “attractors,” that is to say, are we people who draw others closer to know more about our faith by the way we live? Or are we living in such a way that we “repel” others from the faith and send them flying to other pastures of religion? I am reminded of Jesus’ words, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our role is to attract others to the glory of God revealed in us. How can we go about that? I so often am personally attracted to the faith present in those who respond to a difficulty in their lives with hope and grace and confidence that God is in charge of the outcome. Our faith-filled reactions to the inevitable troubles that life throws at us serve as attractors to others who are intrigued and curious about such responses that are counter to what secular society expects.
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The answer to the question of what a Bible study is seems at first glance to be a simple one: an in-depth look at Scripture. But a recent article in Christianity Today entitled “Let Bible Studies Be Bible Studies” reveals that the answer can actually be fairly complex in our church today.
“Over time, ‘Bible study’ has become a catchall to describe all kinds of gatherings,” the writer of the article, Jan Wilkin, explains. “As we have expanded our use of the term, we have decreased the number of actual Bible studies we offer” (Christianity Today, March 2017, p. 26).
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I am fascinated these days by how everyone is seemingly obsessed with keeping their smartphones charged. I am in restaurants and bars where patrons are always asking waiters and bartenders if they can plug in their phones behind a counter somewhere. And on any trip to the airport you will see all kinds of electronic devices being charged at outlet stations at various seating areas. Our greatest fear is being somewhere without our phone fully charged, it seems.
While I do know from experience how lost you feel when you are out in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone, I do wonder about what our obsession with wanted to keep charging our phones says about where our priorities lie.
We want to keep our phones charged at all times, yet we are not as diligent about recharging our faith on a daily basis. If we have the time to search for an outlet to recharge our phones, we certainly have to the time to take a few minute to search through Scripture at various times throughout the day to keep ourselves charged up spiritually.
Instead of panicking when we receive notification that our phone power is at 20% and then at 10%, we should be worried that we have made through 10% or 20% of the day without praying. Our spirits can be refreshed again and again with a few moments of simple one-on-one conversation with our Savior.
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