Reflections on keeping healthy

Every morning I do three things that each contribute to keeping me healthy.

Since my heart issues a few years back I take tablets that help my heart recover and reduce the risks of further heart attacks. I love running however as I get older, I have found myself regularly getting injured. To prevent injury, I now do a series of stretches designed to strengthen muscles which are degrading with age. The third part of my morning routine is time alone with God; reading a section of scripture, journaling my thoughts, reading a devotional book, and then spending time in conversation with my Heavenly Father.

The truth is that there have been times when, for various reasons, I am not as consistent with my stretching routine as I should be. E.g.  I have a long period injury free and think I don’t need to stretch anymore and consider I can use the time more profitably; then a few months ago I had a bruised rib which stopped me stretching as it was uncomfortable. Each time I stop I get injured. It takes a while to overcome the injury, to restart the exercises and then get back to running again. Hopefully I have finally learnt my lesson and realise I need to invest time every day looking after my body if I want to keep running.

I always take my tablets but am aware that not taking them could have severe repercussions. My father dispensed with his prescribed medication a few years back, was unconvinced they were benefiting him and was frustrated with what he thought were the side effects. A while later he suffered a stroke that eventually led to his death. Were the two related, who knows, but they could be.

For decades now I have kept up my daily time with God, I don’t know what would happen if I stopped. My suspicions are that it would be similar to when I stop stretching, my health would suffer, my spiritual health rather than physical health.

Hence this blog, encouraging you to build disciplines into your life that help build and sustain spiritual health for the long haul. Neglecting some things have an obvious consequence and immediate impact that takes time to recover from. We may not be aware of the impact of neglecting other things, but they do have an impact.

Therefore, don’t neglect your spiritual health, put things in place to strengthen it or it will inevitably decline. My suggestions are to give priority to spending time with God each day in a way that will nourish you. Then ensure you spend time each week with fellow Christians so that you can bless them, and they can bless you. Finally, regularly reflect on whether you are living by faith or by sight. Are you taking steps of faith that take you out of your comfort zone and require you to trust in God? Are you involved in things that stetch you spiritually and give urgency to your prayers?

As I get older, I am aware of the importance of health and putting things in place that keep me healthy, physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I would encourage you to do the same.

Turning evil into good?

Over the weekend just gone a young white man travelled hundreds of miles to go on a killing spree in a predominantly black neighbourhood, live screening the event on social media. A report from the BBC is shown below.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-61462939

Whilst this event took place in America it has been widely reported and has once again had an impact in our communities. Such events can not and should not be ignored. My prayer is that they might be a catalyst for healthy and lasting change, my fear is that they will create a growing spiral of division, anger, hatred, and fear. We need to keep praying but I also think that prayer needs to be accompanied by action. This blog is a small action on my part!

As Christians we need to offer an alternative to the world’s response. We believe in a God who overcame evil by triumphing over it on the cross. I believe that ultimately evil always overreaches itself, as is shown by the cross and resurrection. We believe in a God who calls us to be reconcilers. We therefore need to be active in speaking out against injustice, we need to be active in working towards reconciliation. We need to hate what is evil and rejoice with the truth.

As a white Christian I can only listen to the pain this event has again caused to my black and brown brothers and sisters. Hear the fear, anger and hopelessness that once again has surfaced. How could it have happened yet again? I can listen though. I can also encourage my friends to share those feelings with God, to join them in lament, join them in asking God, how long O Lord? How can you allow these injustices to continue? To recognise that things are not how God intended them to be, and long for his kingdom to come.

I can also encourage them to hate evil but not to allow that to spill over into bitterness. To plead for them to not believe the worst of all white people. To encourage everyone that there are alternatives to either trying to not think about such events because of the pain they cause, or to be overwhelmed with despair. I can also speak out against the injustice and challenge other white people with influence to do so too.

The events of the weekend need to be a catalyst for more conversations between people from different racial backgrounds, strengthening friendship and understanding of each other.

We need to have faith that events meant for evil can be used for good. We can be part of that.

Let us not hide from such events but talk about them. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk to me about them, I am always happy to listen.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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Over the past few months, we have felt as a church that God has been speaking to us about a new area of ministry he wants us to invest into.  This ministry is to provide support for the many refugees and asylum seekers here in Luton, and show the love that God has for them, and the intrinsic value and dignity that they have.

Where has all this come from?  Well, over the past few months and without actively seeking it, we have had 5 refugees start worshipping with us, and we are expecting more to join us shortly.  As we have got to know these people, we have heard first-hand about the difficult circumstances which have forced them to be displaced from their home country, and away from friends, jobs, homes and families.  And having spoken with local council representatives and other local churches, we have realised that many of these asylum seekers are grouped together in small local hotels, and without the language, understanding and confidence to engage with the community around them.

At Hope Church we have felt God speaking to us and our need to respond to this.  A small number of us met to pray and chat with some local asylum seekers, and very quickly had a page of ideas of services and support which would be beneficial. However we also felt strongly that with other existing projects we are already involved in, that we should focus on 1-2 promising initiatives which we can commit to and support.  Those initiatives will be (1) a specific refugee-focussed session of Open House on Wednesday afternoons and (2) English Language lessons.

Speaking personally as a leader of the church, I have been amazed and excited by how quickly and easily plans have fallen into place for these initiatives!!  The right rooms are immediately available, the right leaders are immediately available, we have had immediate support and encouragement from across the church family, and in times of prayer about refugees I have immediately felt the Holy Spirit close, energised and powerful.  It is miraculous that having met to discuss ideas in the late March, these initiatives will be up and running within 6 weeks of that first discussion.

God is on the move! It is exciting to feel His passion and energy in His purposes.  No doubt there will be surprises, joys and challenges ahead, but God we pray to you for your blessing.  If anyone feels stirred to join us as a helper please do contact me ASAP Jonathan.hopechurch@gmail.com

 

Jonathan Adams (on behalf of the Hope Leadership Team)

 

Other interesting links

City of Sanctuary network:     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Sanctuary_(UK)

UN Refugee Agency:             https://www.unhcr.org/uk/

Asylum seekers in UK:           https://www.unhcr.org/uk/asylum-in-the-uk.html

Manna, Sabbath and rest.

Life is getting increasingly difficult for so many people. Covid is still around but we now have the added challenge of cost of living increases which are causing some to struggle to make ends meet. In this context I have been reflecting on the manna, special bread, given in the wilderness as described in Exodus 16. There were special rules for gathering it, you could only gather enough for the day (no surplus) except the day before the Sabbath when twice the amount could be gathered because there would be no manna available on the Sabbath day.

24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” Exodus 16

What I have been pondering is the obvious importance given to Sabbath, taking time off from work and resting, even in the most extreme of circumstances. Being in the wilderness having to collect white stuff falling from the sky seems extreme to me, yet even so God insists on taking time off to rest. Why was this so important, why did it trump everything else?

I think it was because God wanted to instil in his people the importance of living in a different way than they had lived in Egypt. In Egypt their whole lives were built around work, no respite, they had to make bricks every single day of their lives. They had been miraculously set free from slavery and the sign of that was a day each week when they didn’t work but rested and appreciated all that God had done for them. He showed that they didn’t need to work because he gave them enough provision without having to work every single day. He didn’t give them surplus, but he gave them enough.

Having been used to a slave mindset where everything was about work God knew how important it was that they learnt to live in the freedom he had won for them.

I have been pondering this because I believe we still battle with a slave mindset and can find it difficult to take time off. To take a day a week, then extended times at other times (the equivalent of the Jewish Festivals) when we stop working and trust in the provision of God. To set aside time to appreciate God and His creation. In challenging economic times, the battle is even harder.

Thorough out my childhood the phrase 6 to 2 was important, it was the shift that my father would work every Saturday and Sunday in addition to his normal Monday to Friday work. This paid for our holidays we were told. Looking back to my childhood I wonder if my father got it right. Working 7 days a week meant we didn’t have the time with him we would have otherwise. My brother and I missed out; I think my father missed out too.

It is not just my father, I think many of us struggle to relax and take time off, to not think about work but to rest. To celebrate the provision of God, to recognise that we are no longer slaves but free people, to trust his provision. I suspect the lesson God was trying to teach the children of God in the wilderness still needs to be learnt. Not least by myself.

There are different reasons we struggle to take time off, to relax. It can be economic, we think we need to work crazy hours to make ends meet or to have the lifestyle we desire; it can be that we get our identity from work and from success in the workplace, this drives us on; it can be a wrong view of what serving God is like, thinking he is a master like Pharoah constantly demanding from us.

Whatever the reason I think that God wants to release us into the freedom that he has won for us, and to do this we need to win the battle to rest. To trust that God’s way is the best way.

 

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