Tag Archives: fellowship

Fear and pain are what move you to grow, mature and serve others to your glory and Jesus’

One thing I find odd about people today is that too many of them genuinely think that things are supposed to happen nice and easy, that they’re never supposed to experience any kind of pain, that there shouldn’t be any risk to what they do. Basically we have become unrealistically averse to any kind of pain or risk. An article in “Triathlete Magazine” (October 2015 p 28) written by Jene Shaw discusses the fact that if you’re going to do anything to grow, there’s going to be pain.

It really is called maturing, too many really think that they can really sit back, contribute as little as possible or nothing and expect everyone else to scurry around them. Obviously as a person and in a society, that model is not going to last too long. Only so many people can take, because there are only so many  available to give. In order to grow and become stronger and be better positioned to support those in genuine need. When we all do what is necessary then it’s not just for someone else, be we do become much stronger and a lot better able to cope with life. As a part of that whole we become better.

Too many really believe that pain is bad and something is wrong when they have pain. As the picture posted by someone in the triathlon community puts so well, at the end , when the challenge is overcome, the pain is a sign that you have grown through it. Whether it’s triathlon, basketball, weights, abs, swimming, if I don’t feel some pain, muscular, a little bruising I really don’t feel I’ve gotten the whole experience. That pain in the muscles tells me, that my body will rebuild from that pain and make me stronger.

As Jene suggests in the article, you need to accept the pain, if you fight it or fear it you can’t grow into it. Believe me there have been plenty of times when I’ve stood at the start of a swim at 7am wondering what I’m doing up at this time, knowing that hitting that water is going to be a, yea, painful experience. Knowing that I’m probably going to be kicked and elbowed by other swimmers, knowing that I have to get out to bike and run, yea there is anxiety. But knowing the feeling of accomplishment, success in finishing and knowing what it will do for my physical, mental and yes spiritual growth that will follow (some call it “bragging rights”), helps me to stand up to the challenge. So realize what you love about it, what it will move you to and the heck with the pain. I’ve done 54 triathlons and dozens of other races, so yea, I think I know what I’m talking about.

Jene suggests setting some goals. How can I do the swim, bike, run faster. Isn’t that finishers medal going to look good with my other medals, how great it will be to share with the other finishers, with my family, friends,  others at church? Think about the things you need to do during the race in order to finish as strong as possible.

She suggests relaxing, find some positive way; deep breaths, stretching and shaking, encouraging mental images, encouraging the other triathletes. It will work out and it will be rewarding, even if it’s only for your personal satisfaction.

Yes there is pain that is a warning sign. When you get to the point where you have overcome a lot of fear, anxiety you might think you should push through that pain. You do have to learn the difference, when you need to push through and accomplish, or when you do need to stop in order to prevent further damage. So there is pain that we need to overcome on our own in order to grow stronger, but pain when we do need someone else’s help. Can you say “medical tent, take me to the hospital”?

But in a Christian context it is the same. As disciples we need to grow and strengthen. When we do, those around us can take courage in us, we become stronger to help those who are genuinely in need, we become givers and leaders, not just takers. Yes there is a time in the Christian walk when we do need to take. Jesus has provided those times to be baptized, to be strengthened in His Body and Blood in our body and spirit, to be built up and strengthened in His preached word and in Scripture. To be a part of Christian fellowship that builds up yourself and those around you. There are times when you will feel you can’t go on. Truth is that being a Christian marks you out for attacks by the devil. The upside is that it also marks us out to be protected by the Holy Spirit, and to be strengthened and gifted to be better able to provide for yourself and for others. Certainly Jesus’ disciples started out as kind of weak and petty. Within a few short years they grew to be tigers of the Christian faith who served many others and also stood up to the fear and challenges of being disciples up to and including dying for Christ.

Too many people today make up their minds that they can’t, when it’s really they won’t. They think that they’re too weak, when they’ve never even tried to see how strong they could be. I’ve experienced this a lot: “well you are bigger and stronger, mentally and physically, you’re special so you can”. I assure you the only way I became that way is by pushing myself. There are plenty of times when I could have just rolled over and let it defeat me. There are too many people who’ve already decided they can’t do anything for themselves and let it defeat them. Ironically those will be the someones who decide that you shouldn’t be doing those things for yourself either. You have to continue to strive. Yea, don’t get me started on those people who stand there, find some way to pooh-pooh what you’re doing and give you this “hey! You think you’re better than me?” Me? I really don’t care, but apparently you seem to know deep down.

Ministry has been a very real lesson in knowing who I can rely on and who I just need to keep at arms length. Sure I serve anyone as much as I can. But, especially in an inner-city church, there are a lot out there who simply don’t want to step up and in fact want to take all that you will give them, if not more. They really see others as simply a source to provide for themselves. Again, yes, do what you can and don’t try to make excuses to avoid situations. However, know your limits and what pain is a warning sign. Do you want to beat yourself on some of those people who are hard as rocks? There are a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who do understand their own growth and growth together with others. Those are the ones that you need to pull together with.

Yes, there is pain, that’s a good thing and the sooner you accept that it will build and strengthen, the better for you and those around you. Sometimes you do need to be at that starting line wondering; “what the heck am I doing here”. But you seem to get to the finish and realize how great that was. There is team too. It is exhilarating to win a basketball game as a team, even though you’ve gotten bruised and banged and it’s kind of hard to really stand. Those painful muscles in the morning are a wonderful memory of the things you did to be stronger from the previous day. Find those who encourage and build you up and let them do the same for you. Quit sitting behind that computer looking for that kind of fellowship. It’s sad on your part and it’s just not going to happen.

Celebrate the success you’ve achieved, share it with those who know what it means to be fearful and have pain, it’s a great way to grow in brothers and sisters. Realize that even when there is suffering for Jesus, He knows what’s going on, who is and isn’t His. I’m glad I’m His, I’m glad He’s given me the challenges He has and that He’s been the one to move me through the fear, pain, anxiety and given me the thrill of victory, no matter how small the world sees that victory. Let Jesus move you to where you need to be regardless of the things you have to overcome. When I’ve reached the end of those challenges, I’ve realized that Jesus has done the things necessary in order to get me there. So feel some real pain and fear, join those who know the joy and accomplishment that makes you feel. You will be a far better person and so much of your fear and stress will disappear. Find me at the starting line of the next race, it would be great to obsess and encourage with you. !

Does it honor God to abuse our bodies with overwork?

It’s gotten to be almost trite, cliche in the world, “can’t burn the midnight oil, the candle at both ends”. Did God make us to work 50 plus hours, to some people that would be a short week, constantly on call, always in touch via computers, cell phones. Sure, once in awhile you have to stretch. Finished graduate school 4 years ago, oh yeah many a time when that paper had to be finished and it needed to be finished that night it was an all-nighter. 29 years in the Coast Guard Reserve. In the Coast Guard reserve you were expected to augment a unit where your training was applicable to. I was trained on boats doing search and rescue and law enforcement. Especially after I was activated, but even doing reserve duty, there were many times where you could be working all day and be out all night, getting bounced around in lousy weather, having to be alert to save lives and property or enforce laws. Often this would be miles off shore in frigid weather for most if not all the night. Even in my corporate life trips would start early in the morning, end late at night and require late hours to do what was necessary in order to resolve issues with the customer.

Things haven’t gotten easier, technology means we’re on call at all hours, text messages, e-mail can be worked on and even responded to until all hours. Downsizing is across the board, few sectors of the economy haven’t seen a reduction of people which requires the remaining souls to pick up the slack.

Pastors are certainly not immune to emergencies at all hours and each one requiring asap attention. In addition to the needs of my congregation I am a chaplain for the York Police. I’ve responded to, mostly deaths, late at night, also the parent of a sexual assault victim. Our jobs have worthy reasons  to put in long hours, but what happens when it becomes routine instead of the exception.

An article in Inc Magazine by Jennifer Alsever (Feb 2014 p 54) cites the following research:

“Research shows that making your staff wok marathon hours does more ill than good…

67% increase risk of developing heart disease for workers who put in 11 hours a day vs eight.

3X increased likelihood that those who work 50-plus hours a week will develop an alcohol abuse problem. [I think I’m the exception, no interest whatsoever, but you can certainly see how it would happen – Jim]

50% of employees are less productive as a result of stress

20 hours without sleep is equal to a 0.1 blood alcohol level, which is the equivalent of five or six dirnks (for people 160 to 180 hours).”

As a pastor I would hasten to add the loss of family time (ya, just ask my wife), you betchum that causes some stress. I hasten to add that odd/long work hours keep people from worship, either because they’re working or recovering thereof. Not to mention the lack of participation in other church activities. In my experience this causes a separation from church and the nurturing of being in the presence of the Lord and with brothers and sisters in Jesus. I have definitely seen it result in further separation and eventually just completely dropping out. While many want that relationship, they feel awkward just showing up once in awhile. Heck imagine a relationship where you show up once in awhile, go through the motions and run out the door at the earliest opportunity. Too often it just becomes an excuse, work isn’t really that demanding, but they just don’t want to deal and it’s a great excuse to the pastor. I’m kind of amazed at the excuses, actual and created, I know people shouldn’t have to, I’d much rather they gave me the blunt truth, but wandering away is just easier.

I would hope that if people are in that situation that they let me know. Their physical, mental health is a vital consideration when work life overwhelms your time, but spiritual health is also going to take a serious hit. Separation from the church, from the Word, from the Sacraments, from the support and encouragement of fellow Christians is going to take away ones spiritual strength and just turn them into an asset, a working machine. Long amounts of time dedicated to work is dehumanizing and subtly separates us from the spiritual nourishment that is so necessary to His creation who are made in His image. God doesn’t need rest, but He took time to set an example for us who are in desperate need of rest, by requiring us to observe the Sabbath.

Talk to your pastor, help him to see that you’re in need and need his help to keep you spiritually strong. Help him to think out of the box for worship opportunities, maybe just a time of prayer for two or more of you. Time of study that you could share on line, but something that keeps you connected. Maybe the church could have prayer for those who are separated for various reasons. But simply fading out is not acceptable, it contributes to the deterioration of your fellowship and we are commanded to meet together in Christ’s church (Hebrews) and we are not doing ourselves any favor by missing the revival, restoration and refreshment of being in the presence of the Lord with Christian brothers and sisters.

So let’s discuss, Wednesday morning 10am at the Green Bean Coffee Shop the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York. Park right behind the church and walk east about 4 doors.

Spirit, mind and body

Thanks to the York County Council on Aging for a great “Seniors Game”. I have to admit that it sort of bristles that I’m “old” enough to be in anything that refers to “seniors”, however the YCCA, AARP, various other organizations posit that I am “old” enough. It was fun though and I did pretty well, even won in backstroke, which I’ve never won anything at. So I won three silvers and one bronze, 100 yard free, 50 yard back, 50 yard breast and 100 yard breast.
The entire competition went awhile, started at 10am and ended at 3pm, but considering the events and age groups the volunteers made sure things went off bang, bang. Gave me time to chat with new friends, get some good tips, allowed me to reflect back to the competitions I did in school/YMCAs. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a swim meet and there was plenty of time to take it in and get that old feeling from many years ago.
We are very physical beings, when we die, assuming the Lord Jesus doesn’t return before then, we will be in spirit, but only for a short time. We were made to be physical beings. God put Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden intending that they should live there in a perfect, very physical world. That is what the resurrection will be. We will live in a world much like it is today, but Jesus will be our very visible light, we will be sinless, our bodies will be strong, there will be no illness, no physical disability or death. We will be as we were intended to be until we undermined God’s work with our sin and corruption.
Point being we were made to be very physical, in body, to use our minds for God’s glory and to have a spirit that transcends the world and by the Holy Spirit is guided into eternal life. As God’s children in Jesus we are responsible to use the gifts associated with body, mind and spirit to our best abilities and to the glory of God.
So yea, I try to make a good witness by trusting in God, being led by Him and doing the things that bring glory to Him in all the ways He made me, to rip off the YMCA, in spirit, mind and body. Having swum for YMCA teams, been a member, lifeguard, swimming instructor, phys ed instructor, aquatic director and filling various and sundry other jobs at the “Y”, and being a Christian organization, it’s always great to see that motto and remember all the things that God made us for.
It was fun to compete, it was fun to win some, but it was fun to just have a little God given ability and use it as He intended and maybe, just maybe be an example to someone else who might just decide; “it’s time to get back in there and do something to make myself stronger in body, mind and spirit.” I hope you will join me and share how you have decided, to make yourself stronger in all the gifts God gave you.

You don’t have to win, place but just show up for the challenge, the fellowship and to His glory.