FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
As a retired full-time minister, I have observed many different people during my career. Some of them did not take good care of themselves and often bemoaned or even hated life. Others had much more positive outlooks, viewing life as a gift from God and embracing all of the good that life offered them. With respect to the latter, I have noticed that most of them made an effort to take care of themselves, even through times of suffering and disaster. Let me tell you what I have learned from them.
First, they viewed their bodies as a marvelous gift that allowed them to be mobile and active. They knew the importance of exercise, so they walked, ran, played sports and enjoyed an energetic life. When a bone was broken, they realized that a doctor’s help would be necessary, but they also knew they had an important part to play. For example, my mother-in-law had both knees replaced at the same time. Determined to walk again, she did her exercises daily and remained positive about life. Mending of the body often requires something from us in addition to a doctor’s treatment. Isaiah 38:16 (NLT) says, “Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health.”
I have watched many others who intentionally have worked on improving their minds. I believe that keeping our minds challenged, alert, and interested in some special aspect of life is healthy for us. Reading, doing crossword puzzles or learning a foreign language are just a few of the possible activities that could improve our minds. The Apostle Paul has a good suggestion in Philippians 4:8 (TLB), saying, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.”
I also have seen many people who have found great comfort in their souls. They possessed what Jesus talked about in John 14:27 (TLB): “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Some of these people were dying from cancer, losing limbs or suddenly beset with a condition from which they could not be restored. Nevertheless, each of them was at total peace, experiencing a sublime comfort in their soul and expressing a smile on their face.
Finally, I have seen people befriend the heart of another. These are folks who extend a helping hand, offer a listening ear, give a glass of water to one who is thirsty and call or write to their friends. Instead of being a temporary when-it-is-convenient friend, they touch the heart of another, and become a genuine friend. As it says in Proverbs 17:17 (MSG), “Friends love through all kinds of weather.”
The positive people I have met regarded their lives as a gift from God, and they endeavored to take care of themselves. They helped their bodies mend, improved their minds, found comfort in their souls, and befriended the hearts of others. We all can learn from them. Take care of yourself!
– LeFeber is a retired American Baptist pastor who now lives in South Williamsport.
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
One day at the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus directs the attention of his disciples to an impoverished widow who has put her last two coins, “all she had to live on,” into the offering box. He points out that in God’s sight this woman has given more than the wealthy have contributed (Luke 21:1-4, Mark 12:41-44).
A rich young man (or ruler, in some texts), self-assured that he has kept all the religious laws and practices, asks Jesus what more he can do to merit eternal life. He is told, “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor” (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:1731, Luke 18:1830).
Jesus said many things that seem extreme to us, such as that one should leave the family and follow him without saying goodbye (Luke 9:61-62). Likely Jesus is making indirect or allegorical points with these excessive-seeming commands. For the rich young man was hampered from loving fully by his excessive attachment to his wealth. He knew he couldn’t make the move, and so he walks away sad and perplexed. Perhaps the message will sink in, and he will do more than donate some out-of-season garments to the poor. Most of us can’t make the total commitments either, whether to love God with whole hearts or our neighbors as ourselves – let alone follow Paul’s charge to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But should we turn away from our faith’s teachings disenchanted?
Instead, let’s propose a subcategory of Christianhood. Call it “Quasi-Christianity” and ourselves QCs. Those of other faiths who find their doctrinal commands too challenging can be designated QMs, QJs or Q-whatevers. So what do we, who cannot love 100 percent and will not redistribute all of our wealth among the huddling masses, do?
Henry Thoreau, in Walden, advised his readers to own nothing that they really would hate to have stolen from them. That attitude likely would keep us from becoming too attached to our assets.
Theologian Matthew Fox advises us to open ourselves in awe to the wonders of creation, appreciate them, be grateful, and try to see that others can share this attitude, an attitude that could perhaps be seen as sort of praying without ceasing and one that would encourage us to be generous enough to support programs that make it possible for others to savor life.
American Indian teachers and mystics of many faiths have emphasized that all people and all things are connected. Accepting this idea makes it easier to love one’s neighbor, who then is seen as united to oneself in a connected universe.
Then there is Christ’s revelation, found also in the Eastern religions, that one must lose one’s life in order to save it (Luke 17:33, among others), meaning perhaps that one must lose one’s ego-identification in order to be able to live and love fully. This is opposite to a self-centered focus on one’s own salvation.
While getting beyond one’s ego may be asking a bit much for most of us, we can, nevertheless, move toward all of these aforementioned ideals if we just don’t take ourselves and our things too seriously. But, hey, don’t ask me to give up my custom roll-top desk or my framed 1960 Philadelphia Eagles championship poster, for I realize, with some remorse, that I am a Quasi-Christian, though one accepting forgiveness.
– Coates is a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Williamsport
FOOTSTEPS TO FOLLOW
A little more than 10 years ago, I had the privilege of attending Urbana 2003. Urbana gathers mission-minded young adults, missionaries, and team leaders once every three years. For those who are curious, Urbana’s mission is to “compel this generation to give their whole lives for God’s global mission.” Urbana’s attendance reached a whopping 20,000 people that year.
I will never forget an Urbana leader stepping forward to let us know the goal for that year’s offering. They prayerfully believed that we would bring in $1 million. While I agreed that the world of missions could greatly use that much money, I also knew that the majority of college students were poor. I found it hard to believe that we could fork up an average of $50 per person.
Not long after collecting the offering, the total was announced. To my amazement, more than $1,100,000 was given to God for His global mission. My faith grew that day.
More than seeing the monetary significance was that God opened my eyes that day to the unimaginable talents, gifts and abilities that were present in that place. God revealed to me a greater awareness of Paul’s challenge, which says, “Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27).
Personally, my spiritual upbringing is the result of being raised in the Church of the Nazarene. But I have also completed an internship at an interdenominational ministry called Teen Mania, and I have been a youth/worship pastor of an Assemblies of God church. Now, there I was, in the midst of 20,000 believers (only God knows how many denominations and people groups were present) all coming together for one purpose: to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done through our obedient worship of one man, Jesus.
So what’s my point in this entry of Footsteps to Follow?
There’s a good chance that I don’t know the majority of you who are reading this. Yet how many churches are in Lycoming County? How many brothers and sisters in Christ are worshiping just down the street, though I have yet to introduce myself? Some may take great advantage of the United Churches of Lycoming County network, but my guess is that too few of us do.
Want to know what I think? We allow the enemy of our souls and the enemy of Christ’s Body to separate us into factions which lose sight of the potential that exists within our ranks as a Holy Spirit-empowered global force to be reckoned with. We tend to think small because we neglect to know one another. We doubt our ability to adequately love and serve others because we ignore our own teammates in the church next door.
Question: What would happen if we set aside our insignificant differences (as far as eternity is concerned) and instead came together to celebrate friendship and worship with the One who makes us one? We just celebrated Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down and brought unity and power, which in turned transformed homes, cities, and the world.
I am committed to follow His footsteps because that’s my calling as a child of God. But what would happen if we followed in His footsteps together? I challenge you (and myself) to start getting to know those in the God’s family and ask that His Spirit give us the power to effectively be His witnesses for His sake and glory (Acts 1:8).
– White is the pastor at Twin Hills Church of the Nazarene in Montoursville.