Monday, November 24, 2014

What Makes Me Tick

This sermon is part of the ongoing effort to clear my mind of the funk/existential crisis/emotional upheaval I experienced in the earlier part of this year.

It is not, as my oldest son presumed, a sermon on what ticks me off (his assumption was that he would feature in a large portion of a sermon with that topic).

What Makes Me Tick

JUST A WORD OF WARNING!!!!
There will be a little bit of undressing (nothing distasteful).

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Geek Me

That title is not an imperative sentence. It is a description. It is who I am.

I am a geek.

I love all forms of geekiness. Computer games, comic books, action figures, Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi movies and television shows. I am a broad based geek.

How did it start? How far back does it go? Where did it all begin?

This is my origin story.

I don't remember much about my childhood. There are scraps here and there. I remember traumatic events. I remember a few mistakes. There aren't many "happy" memories. I don't know why that is. It is one more thing I'm sure a therapist could help me discover.

But there are some things I do remember. Geek things.

I remember television shows that were my favorites: Superfriends, Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battlestar Galactica. Batman, Space: 1999.  Star Trek, the original series is one I don't remember watching.

I remember movies that I watched: Star Wars, Buck Rogers (yeah, it was movie first), Planet of the Apes, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

I remember reading comic books.

I remember action figures.

And all of these were in the 1970's. I was born in December of 1970. Those 10 years, especially later in the decade, I was conditioned toward being a geek. And my Mom doesn't know how it happened. But it did. Those were the things that I felt the most attraction to.

When the '80's rolled around, I retreated into my own little world. Atari in the early years (really through most of the decade) and desktop computers from the middle of the 80's helped develop my geek lifestyle. I also became a barely functional introvert. I wasn't interested in social interaction. I found my comfort in the solitude of my room and my thoughts.

I also was weird.

I wasn't like anyone I knew. Most of the people around me were outgoing, socializers. They were interested in playing basketball or baseball. I didn't find anything interesting in those pursuits. I would rather read a comic book or play a video game. My closest friends were my action figures. Not that they were real to me, but they were alive through my imagination. I could express my thoughts, build worlds, create stories, that no one else seemed interested in.

When I went off to college, I began to encounter people I could relate to. They had similar interests. I found I could socialize with them because we shared a common language. I grew a lot in college. I went from being a barely functional introvert to a functional introvert. I learned to interact with people that I didn't have that same interests. But in a closet in the back part of my mind the geek was still alive and well.

After college, I accepted three churches, got married, and moved off to seminary. I felt that the geek needed to grow up. The things of comfort I relied upon had to be put away. Culture was telling me that a geek is acceptable only to a certain point in life. After you cross a certain line, you have to grow up and become a normal, functioning, mature adult. So, outside of reading for pleasure and television shows in the privacy of my home, I became a closet geek. To the rest of the world, I tried to fit into their expectations or what they needed me to be.

When I graduated seminary and began ministry as a full-time lifestyle, being a geek was not helpful. Most people I encountered were older adults who wanted a somewhat serious adult minister. Being a "man-child" wasn't acceptable. They had serious lives to live and wanted a serious pastor to relate to them. The geek was not allowed out anymore. The only exception was when people had computer or technology problems. It's okay to be a geek when someone can't program a VCR or their computer is wonky. But keep your comic books and fantasy stories out of sight.

There were friends, ministry friends usually, who shared the passion. But I wasn't in a place to build a community with those colleagues. I lived out a life of isolation. My wife was understanding and allowed me to be the geek I could be in the home. But she is isn't a geek. It isn't her lifestyle. So I couldn't share that with her.

So what? Why all of this emotional baggage?

Because I have had to accept that I am not going to be like the people who are around me. I still do not like sports. I don't like nature. I am not interested in politics or so many other things that drive the conversations around me. I am a geek. I will not change. Accepting me is a choice others have to make. But I accept who I am. I like being a geek. I don't want to change and wouldn't if I was given the means.

What will follow from this is that you will hear a lot more geekiness from me. You may not be interested in those things. You may not be interested in this part of my life. But it is who I am.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Houston Persecution

Recently, Houston has been a news magnet in the Christian world. I'm linking to the snopes.com entry only because it includes the sources and dates if you want to inform yourself. In a thumbnail sketch, here is the issue:
  • The mayor of Houston signed an ordinance into law that was controversial. 
  • Opponents of the ordinance began a petition drive to repeal the law.
  • The petition was declared invalid by the city.
  • The opponents filed a lawsuit against the city.
  • The city attorneys responded and part of their action was to subpoena the sermons of 5 area pastors dealing with certain topics.
  • The news world erupted in a frenzy of tree- and atom-killing as they printed/published/posted/aired reports about this issue and the blogosphere launched its own rhetoric, saber-rattling campaign.
Got it? Okay.

Here is my question: why would a pastor be offended/angry/persecuted if someone wanted copies of their sermon?

I would be delighted if someone asked for a copy of all of my sermons on any topic. I would be overjoyed if someone cared enough to go back and read what I said on a subject - without regard to the topic.

If the city attorney's wanted to see any of my sermons regarding any subject matter, I would think that the greatest compliment to my preaching status. To think that my words (which I dedicate to God before every sermon) could affect the hearts and minds of the people I proclaim before says much of the opinion of those who desire those documents. They believe that preaching changes hearts and minds. They believe that the words of my mouth, as a preacher, bear weight in the lives of those who hear me.

It is my hope that someone would desire to hear or read or watch the sermons that I proclaim with this much interest. To go to a judge and make a formal request of those sermons is a testament of their desire to read and hear the word of God that I proclaim.

And think of the legacy. Those sermons become a part of public record. Those sermons form the basis of precedence in the law. Those words shape the course of future decisions and opinions.

The only reason I can reason out, for a pastor refusing to surrender their sermons, is that their sermons weren't the word of God, but were the words of their own hearts and mind. I have to ask, did they submit that sermon before God, whose word they claimed to build upon, in order to have it rightly judged by the one who has the right to judge? Did their sermons not reflect kingdom principles but mere human opinion? Were their sermons not good enough for all ears (and eyes) to hear (and see)?

If any attorney wants to read my sermons, you don't need a subpoena. Just send me a letter. But be ready for the reply. I will send you a copy of every letter, of every sermon outline I have ever preached.

And with every sermon I send you, there will be a little prayer that somewhere in those humble words, you may find Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Family Religion: Identifying the Head

Here is the sermon outline for September 28th, 2014 sermon.

Family Religion: Identifying the Head
Ephesians 3:14-19; 5:21-29

Household Religion
If our faith leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
The next part of Paul’s “family rules” speaks to households
Ephesians 5:21-24 & 33b speak to wives in relation to their husbands
Ephesians 5:25-33a speak to husbands in relation to their wives
Ephesians 6:1-3 speak to children in relation to their parents
Ephesians 6:4 speak to fathers in relation to their children
Ephesians 6:5-8 speak to servants/slaves in relation to their master
Ephesians 6:9 speak to masters in relation to their servants/slaves
Paul is explicitly speaking to the rules of households, how they should treat one another
What does “head of the household” mean?
The head of the household in a family religion is not who makes the decisions or provides for the financial needs
Those are tasks that can be done by anyone in the household - Proverbs 31:10-31
Who should make the decisions - the wisest person, the person with the most knowledge in a given area, the one who understands the best what is needed
Who should provide for the financial needs - the one who can do the most for the family financially
In our culture, family is not structured the same; we cannot lock a 21st century family into a first century family model, if we even understand it properly

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the duties that are described as the husband’s role
loving their wives
giving up self for her
washing her by the water
presenting her as holy and blameless
nourish and tenderly care for her
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an example of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
Nurturing and caring for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To guide everyone in the family toward holiness
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the husband
The face of family has changed somewhat
But it wasn’t set in stone in the Bible either
Proverbs 31 shows a wife fulfilling that role
1 Corinthians 7:14 - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
2 Timothy 1:5 - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most spiritually mature one who steps out and accepts responsibility to lead the rest of the family


Sermon Notes

Household Religion
If our faith leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
What does “head of the household” mean?

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the duties that are described as the husband’s role
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an example of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
Nurturing and caring for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To guide everyone in the family toward holiness
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the husband
Proverbs 31 shows a wife fulfilling that role
1 Corinthians 7:14 - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
2 Timothy 1:5 - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most spiritually mature one who steps out and accepts responsibility to lead the rest of the family

Household Religion
If our _faith_ leads us to believe that we are part of God’s family as the church, then our families should reflect our faith
Our families should seek to preserve unity among its members through working together toward a single purpose, having attitudes that result in peace, tending to one another with our words
What does “______________________” mean?

Headship redefined
In terms of family religion, the head of the household fulfills the __________ that are described as the husband’s role
The head of a household  in a family religion is the person who is responsible for:
Seeing that everyone experiences Christ’s love
To be an ___________ of Christ’s self-sacrificing love
___________ and ____________ for everyone in the household
Providing for everyone’s sanctification in the family
To _________ everyone in the family toward __________
So who should do fill this role
It is not always the __________
____________ shows a wife fulfilling that role
________________ - a believing wife sanctifies the unbelieving husband
_______________ - it is Timothy’s grandmother and mother who fulfilled this role
The one who should be the head of household in a family religion is the most __________  ___________ one who steps out and ___________________to lead the rest of the family

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer

I was asked to preach at the Bishop's Retreat last week. Here is the text of that sermon.

Gideon, Minecraft, and One Bad Summer
Judges 6:11-14

We have all been where Gideon was: confronted with God's messenger with the word we were called to do a great thing. We are here today because we have all shared in this experience. There is comfort in knowing that we have this miraculous moment in common. Then why did the idea of standing up here this morning weigh so heavily on me?

I had a bad summer. I had a couple of events  in Spring that made me wonder if I was any good at what I do. I was in a funk when Annual Conference rolled around. At Annual Conference, we were confronted with the need to change direction if we wanted to be strong in the near future.

I hear the burden of doing something to change direction in order to continue our rich heritage and tradition. But in the emotional place I was, I heard, "you aren't doing enough and what you are doing isn't good enough."  Before the end of Annual Conference, my funk was even deeper. I was feeling even  more inadequate. I felt I was being sent back to my appointment not knowing if I could do any good. And my state did not improve over the summer.

I love doing camp and had a great year. I had a longer than usual vacation. But by the end of summer, I was not in a better place. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, I was asking myself - have I wasted the last 20 years of my life doing something I will never be effective doing? Am I adequate enough to continue being a pastor?

Gideon asked this same thing of God. How can I, someone farm boy from a backwater clan in a backwater tribe.

It had taken a lot of struggle with the ideas of failure, expectations, and how much the opinions of others matters. I am still having to work through issues of pride, success, and comparing myself to others. I discovered by accident at the right time the book Fail by J.R. Briggs. The book touches on many of the same issues I was dealing with. I also had to work through some baggage with friends and colleagues. And then I read about Microsoft buying Minecraft.

I am a nerd. A geek. One of those people some of you laugh at on Big Bang Theory when you have no idea what they are talking about. One aspect of my nerdiness is that I’m a computer gamer. I have been a gamer since computers could fit on a desk. Minecraft is one of the biggest upsets in the computer gaming world since it began. It was a simple project that became an international and cultural giant. The person behind the creation of Minecraft is Marcus Persson, a Swedish nerd and game designer. He became a multi-millionaire almost over-night. Last week, Microsoft bought Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.

Marcus Persson, or Notch as he is known in the gamer culture, put out a statement about the purchase of his company and the game he designed. In it, he talks about how he is just a game designer. He just likes to make games. He never set out to make a world-changing, cultural icon. He never wanted to become a symbol of something, which he has. He said something else, about failure:

I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work.

In those words I realized something: I wasn’t having fun anymore. I had been put in a position where people who don’t know me were making judgments about what I am capable of and it hurt me. I felt that expectations had been thrust toward me that do not reflect my nature, gifts, talents, or passions. I was overburdened by the symbol I perceived people had made me out to be.

And then there’s Gideon. The farm boy from a little backwater town. One day God says to Gideon, “I want you to do something great. I want you to deliver my people. I think you have what it takes to do this. Get it done.” Twice, in fact, God’s servant calls Gideon a mighty man. Here is the picture of this mighty man: he was fearful, wishy-washy, indecisive, and had a problem with commitment. He isn’t our picture of a mighty person with the might to deliver God’s people. God reminds Gideon of this. God says, “I will take care of the victory, you take care of what you can.” If you really know the story, the only thing Gideon had to do was break a pot. God took care of the rest.

Colleagues, my bad summer is over. I’m better, but I’m not good yet. I still have wounds and sore spots in my spirit. But I realized something through all of this. I’m not adequate to be a symbol of something. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of transforming the United Methodist Church. I’m not adequate to achieve the task of turning the course of the Oklahoma Annual Conference. I’m not sure if I’m adequate to do a great thing in a local congregation. But I wasn’t called to do those things.

God called me to be mighty in the might that I have been given. My gifts, talents, and personality make me uniquely equipped to do ministry in the way God prepared me to do. I am only adequate to do what God has purposed me for and gifted me to do. My might is made known in the lives that I touch individually. My might is displayed in the affirmations and encouragements that I can give, usually one life at a time. I’m called to help build disciples one person at a time. Maybe 4 or 5 at a time.

But it’s assuring to know that Jesus did it that way. Jesus didn't look at saving the world when he looked into the eyes of the people he changed. He didnt think about saving the world until he climbed onto a cross and accomplished that once for all.

Friends, brothers and sisters, we are not called to be more than what God has made us to be and become. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the idea that im not doing enough, im not good enough. The might you have been given by our God and our Lord and the Spirit is what you can do. To do more than that is to step into a role that you may not have been called to. Go, do mighty things in the might you have been given. Let God take care of the rest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Alcohol and the People of God

The Bible has been used to justify or condemn many argued point. And rightly so. When believers are confronted with a situation that the revealed word of God has spoken to, there is a need to speak boldly to that issue. Sometimes, though, we encounter a situation or an issue that isn't clearly justifiable or condemned.

Alcohol and drinking alcohol seems to be one such issue.

Before I attempt to lay out a Biblical argument regarding alcohol, I want to deal with some myths that I have heard related to the subject.

Myth #1. Water wasn't healthy enough to drink so wine was drunk regularly.
Wine was a common drink at meals and there was a thriving wine industry in Israel. But you also have to taken into account that wells and cisterns were common for water. There are many accounts of wells in the Bible itself. Isaac's wife was selected when she drew up water to give someone a drink. Jesus even talks to a woman at a well about drinking the water there.

Also keep in mind that rivers and creeks were clean enough to drink. It may not have been "crystal, clear, mountain spring" looking. It may have been a little muddy. But water was still healthy enough to drink.

Myth #2. Jesus only drank unfermented wine.
The Hebrew and Greek words for "wine" in the Old and New Testaments cannot be clearly divided between unfermented and fermented. Since Jesus isn't shown in the Old Testament, we can only look at New Testament use of "wine" And there are  references to occasions where Jesus may have drunk wine. Of the 3 cases where it is possible that Jesus drank, we don't know what he did.
  • Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) - Jesus was there. There was wine being served. When the wine ran out, Jesus transformed water into wine. The wine is attested to be "the good stuff". 
  • Last Supper - Without getting into a detailed argument, it is likely that this was the Passover meal (in at least the Synoptic Gospels). The Passover tradition required the use of wine at multiple points in the course of the liturgy/meal. The head of the table drank as part of the liturgy/tradition. 
  • Feasts with Matthew and Zacchaeus (Luke 5:29-30; Luke 19:1-10) - I put these together to represent Jesus attending feasts held in his honor. The people hosting the feasts were wealthy individuals. They invited their "non-religious" circle of friends. We can gather that Jesus developed a reputation because of this. Jesus was accused of being a drunkard by the Pharisees (Matt 11:19) meaning he associated with people in places where alcohol was being consumed.

Myth #3. The Bible only condemns drinking alcohol.
The Bible has been used to justify an abstinence only policy regarding alcohol. In my own family of tradition, the Methodists have been famously involved in abstinence movements. And many have tried to make abstinence a "gospel truth". But we must fairly consider all of the texts where alcohol is dealt with to answer this consistently.

  • There are 234 mentions of wine in the New American Standard translation of the Bible. 
  • There are 21 uses of the phrase "strong drink".
  • Hebrew has 12 words used to talk about wine or strong drink.
  • Greek has 5 words it uses to talk about the same.
  • Of all of the uses, one Hebrew and one Greek word are used the most often. The bulk of the references to "wine" in the Bible are these two words
There are clearly condemnations against drunkenness and getting drunk in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • You have examples of the evil that comes from drunkenness (Noah, Lot).
  • You have instructions to avoid drinking too much - Proverbs 23:20; Isaiah 5:11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:18.
  • There are arguments supporting that the leaders of the church are to avoid alcohol completely in1 Timothy 3:3, 3:8.
  • We have the text in Romans 14:19-5:3 regarding the weaker among us; by an example we should avoid alcohol.
But the Bible also uses wine in symbolic ways or neutral ways.
  • God's wrath is seen as a cup of wine poured out for enemies to drink.
  • Solomon compared love to the effects of wine.
  • The Holy Spirit's coming on the disciples was attributed to "new wine"

But of all of the references to wine in the Bible, the most common use is one of acceptance.
  • There are 59 references to wine being use as part of meals.
  • There are 27 references to the abundance of wine as examples of God's blessing.
  • 20 references state that God's curse for disobedience is losing wine and strong drink.
  • 25 times wine is referred to as an offering or sacrifice to be brought to priest.
In all of the references to alcohol, almost 60% are accepting of it.
 
So What?
If the Bible appears to accept alcohol, does that mean we accept it and its use in all its forms? No, the Bible merely states that alcohol was a part of the culture in which it was written. There is good evidence that alcohol has been a part of every culture in which the story of God's people has taken place. 

Alcohol is also a part of our culture. Just like the people in the story of the Bible, we have to find a way to live with it and the people who consume it. The church in many places has drawn a line of absolute condemnation against alcohol, the places that serve it, and the people who consume it. That is how God's people in more recent history have dealt with alcohol.

If we look closer at the New Testament, though, Jesus didn't draw that line. He ate and drank with sinners, he attended their festivals and feasts, he even brought the wine to one. He didn't separate himself from them and cast scripture at them to change their ways. He sat with them, listened to them, ministered to them, and above all else loved them.

It's NOT about ME!
When we address the issue of alcohol as Christians, we should always approach it from the point of view of "what does this mean to others?" Romans 14 sounds like it is saying we should be "good examples". But it goes much deeper than that.
14:1 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. (New Living Translation).
14:2, 5,6 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables... In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. (New Living Translation).
If we examine this closely, we find a couple of important points. People at different levels of faith live out their understanding of faith in different ways. Because we are surrounded in the church by people who are different than we are, we need to respect one another in those differences. This is not a matter of believer vs. non-believer or righteous vs. sinner. In this passage we are talking about everyone being believers.
14:10, 12-13 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God...Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. (New Living Translation).
This is a matter of "disputable" things. We do not get to judge one another in these matters. Paul was convinced that some things that were deemed "sinful" before being in Christ, are not "sinful" for him. 
14:14a  I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. 

The issue of unclean vs. clean was, for some Jews, a matter of importance. In Christ, Paul is free to eat things that are unclean (Acts 10:14-15). The non-believing world sees our faith as a set of restrictions. They have gotten the impression that all we care about are the things people can't do. They see us living with nothing but "Thou shall nots".

We who know Christ in maturity know that we live with a wide range of freedom. People of weak faith, new faith, or immature faith live "on the fence". By living out our freedoms in Christ, we can cause others to lose what little grip of faith they have. You are free to drink alcohol within your tolerance and ability to remain sober minded unless by doing so someone may compromise their beliefs.

That's Not Fair!
I can hear people making that "argument". But for believers there is something very important we have to keep in mind.
Romans 14:7-8  For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
When we committed ourselves to Christ, we accepted his rule and reign as complete. His word is law and his will is our path. His law and path are simple - love God, love others, love self last. What "I" want comes after we consider what God wants and what it will do to another. 
Romans 14:13,15,17-19, 15:1-2
13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
15 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
 Putting others needs before our own pleasure is a kingdom rule.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Seeking Maturity Part 5: Loving Yourself

Yesterday I examined Micah's calling to God's people that we are to show love through Mercy, Justice, and Living Evangelism. It seems that, according to Micah, unless we get out and show other people a tangible, meaningful love through acts of mercy, justice, and living evangelism, our worship will be empty and meaningless.

John Wesley, when encountered by people passionate about growing mature in their love of God, formed then into groups to help grow one another. Wesley gave them three rules to live by:

avoid doing harm
do as much good as you can
be intentional about discovering God's love in as many ways as possible (most of the time with others)

These societies became the Methodist church. These rules are part of our basic DNA. At this present time, they are a recessive gene in many places. But we can recapture these essential traits. We can show love in these three ways through these three rules.
 
We love people around us by avoiding to cause them harm but also changing the systems that do harm
We love people by sharing with them when they are in need without love-less baggage
We love people by displaying the love of God that we have experienced that they might experience it themselves

Love Yourself
Jesus’ states that loving God and loving others is the framework that our life in him is built upon.
But loving yourself is instrumental in that framework:

Love God - with your heart, mind, body, soul
Love others - as you would love yourself
You have to show Godly love toward yourself

Paul speaks about how his life is torn between the spiritual pursuit of Christ and the necessary giving of himself to others. In living or dying, Christ has to be exalted in his entire life - body, mind, heart. In living each day there is a choice to conduct our lives in a way that is worthy of the Gospel

When we look at the statistics of how people care for themselves, something interesting is revealed. The members of churches are just as unhealthy in our choices of how we care for our lives as those not in  church.
In terms of Body we are just as obese, don't exercise, have heart disease and diabetes
In the realm of Mind we gossip, consume pornography, veg in front of television
In our Heart we experience depression, bitterness, lack of forgiveness
Our souls cannot grow and mature in spiritual pursuit of Christ if we feed it in these ways

Whole-Life Spiritual Care
Paul speaks many times on the weakness of the flesh. In the history of the church this led to dualism, or a sense of the body is bad and mind/spirit is good. But Paul had a healthy respect for the body. For example in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul stresses that we need to honor God with our bodies. Paul also focuses on the sexual nature of our bodies, but notice that he mentions food (13). These are both physical "needs" that tend to get overbalanced in our contemporary culture. Basically, Paul says the body is one way in which we honor God.

By not caring for our bodies, we limit our physical ability to honor God. Choosing to live a healthy life is an act of stewardship of the fundamental gift that God gives us. God gave us our bodies at birth and gives us the use of our bodies in salvation. God will also give us a resurrected body in the next life.

Paul also seems to know that the mind is controlled by what we allow into it. Philippians 4:4-8 seems to say put in what is good and gain peace of mind. Stop for a minute and think about how you exercise your mind.

What we allow ourselves to think about is how our mind is exercised.

Our culture is known for its junk food. But we are also famous for the mental junk we feed ourselves. If we want to have a healthy mind and live in true peace of mind, we have to control what we think about.

The seat of our emotions may move around, but our emotions lead us around. We tend to center emotions in the heart. The Bible doesn’t refer to the heart like we do.The heart is the source of motives or intentions as well as feelings. Emotions are given by God. They are not evil or weak by their own nature. But emotions are corrupted by sin just as our body and minds are.

What we allow our hearts to dwell on determines how healthy our heart will be
If we focus on the hurts or wrongs that people have done against us, bitterness and anger will develop
If we focus on our own worthlessness or failings, depression will develop
If we focus on our inabilities or insecurities, apathy will develop

Our heart also prepares us for action. What we feel will, usually, lead to a motive that will lead us to an action. If we develop a different heart focus, our actions will go in a different direction. And then our life will go in a different direction. In Galatians 5:16-26 there is a list of healthy emotions that we can pursue. Essentially, our unhealthy “passions” do not have to control our emotional life, which in turn will produce a life of actions.

Our soul is fed by heart, mind, and body. It is hard to separate the soul of the Bible from our understanding of soul. It is easiest to say that the soul is our identity - the essential element of who we are. But it is shaped by how we live, the choices we make, the feelings and passions we dwell upon. 

Our spirit and soul are linked to make relationship with God possible. But our spirit communicates only  what our soul has been focused upon. If we pursue corrupted passions, dwell on the thoughts that are destructive, or treat our bodies with contempt, then our spirit communicates sin. If we pursue healthy emotions, nurture thoughts that conform our minds to God, and live in our bodies as stewards, our spirit communicates righteousness.

Our lives are not just daily calendars with objectives to be met. Our lives are the complex interaction of heart, mind, body, and soul. The choices we make, the passions we pursue, the feelings we harbor, the thoughts upon which we dwell, the information we take in all shape our souls, our identity. As we live out a healthy existence in heart, mind, body, and soul, we are loving our whole self. As we love our self, we are better able to love God and love others