Take Care of Yourself

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)

Will you go see the doctor, please?

This is the question, or tacit command, expressed by several good friends to me last night at theatre rehearsal.  My back was in so much pain, I wasn’t much fun to be around.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard this plea; my wife has been begging me to take care of myself for a couple of months now.  I don’t think she much cares for the irritability and crankiness that comes with lingering back pain. 

I don’t know what caused this back pain, but it’s been going on for at least 4 months now – and yes, I have an appointment to see the Doctor today.  It’s time to take care of myself.

And, maybe it’s a good reminder for all of us to exercise some measure of self care.  I have on my shelf a little booklet entitled “The Minister’s Self-Watch” by C.H. Spurgeon which begins:

Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in good state of repair, for “if the iron be blunt, and he does not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength.”  If the workman lose the edge from his adze, he knows that here will be a greater draught upon his energies, or work will be badly done… We shall usually do our Lord’s work best when our gifts and graces are in good order, and we shall do worst when they are most out of trim.

Is your life in good order.

Sometimes we let the hectic, frenetic pace of our lives overwhelm us.  Our physical discipline goes out the window.  We stop exercising.  We make bad choices in our diet.  We stay up late and don’t get enough sleep.  (And when I say “we”, you know I mean “I”.)  But we also tend to neglect the spiritual disciplines as well.  Our prayers become shorter and shorter, until they cease to be offered.  Our reading and devotion becomes rudimentary and never really impacts or affects our lives.  Our worship, which out to be a joyful celebration of the glory of God and a heartfelt commitment of service in the Lord, becomes perfunctory and dry.  (Again, “Our” = “My”.)

We were called to be the salt of the earth, to bring flavor and a preservative quality to the world.  But, as Jesus said, when salt loses its saltiness, it is worthless and thrown out and trampled under foot.

Spurgeon goes on to say:

“A train is said to have been stopped on one of the United State’s railways by flies in the grease-boxes of the carriage wheels.  The analogy is perfect; a man in all other respects fitted to be useful, may by some small defect be exceedingly hindered, or even rendered useless.”

So here is my thought for the day: Take care of yourself.  You know what you need to do physically.  If you are struggling with pain and physical set backs, talk to your doctor and get to the bottom of it.  If you are able to get out and exercise (walk, run, bike, swim, garden, etc..), do it.  Go to bed at a descent time, get a good night’s sleep.  Make healthy choices for your meals.  Get your body in order.

But get your spiritual life in order as well.  You will not find the time in your busy day for prayer and devotion.  There are enough forces working against such spiritual disciplines to keep you far away from such sweet communion with God.  You must make the time.  Set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for private worship and prayer.  Read your scriptures, which Hebrews calls the double edge sword, that will trim away from your life all that would keep you from walking with the Lord.  Come to worship, not because you must, but because you may, because you have been invited by the grace of God, and because you want all of our life to be an act of worship before Him.

Spurgeon quotes one of my favorites, Robert M. M’Cheyne, saying,

“How diligently the Calvary officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care.  Remember you are God’s sword, His instrument – I trust, a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name.  In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success.  It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.  A holy minister (and I will add, saint) is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

May God continue to work in you, that you may be clean and sharp, ready for the good work to which He has called you.


Good News?

“I bring you good news of great joy…”
(Luke 2:10 ESV)

The Christmas displays have been in the stores since just before Halloween.  The Christmas music has played non-stop since Thanksgiving.  I noticed a strand of lights have gone out on my front porch last night, but I don’t know if I’m going to fix it.  People seem less willing to stop and talk, they’re too busy shopping, sending cards, preparing for Christmas.  I haven’t said it yet, but I know that a “bah-humbug” is working up inside of me.

This Christmas I’ve been preaching through the story from Luke 2:1-20, that very familiar story of Christ’s birth.  Even if you’ve never read the Bible, you know this passage, because heard it proclaimed every year at Christmas while watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special.  We’ve heard the message proclaimed, but do we buy it?

I heard a prayer of confession once which stated: “We confess to you that the good news of Christ no longer sounds new to us nor even so very good.  We confess we are a jaded people.  We have heard the old stories before.  We have heard the songs before.  We see the Christian life as a burden rather than as your gift to be celebrated.”

How many of us have come to that point?  We’ve done all this before, there’s nothing newsworthy here.  We’ve sung the songs, but nothing changes.  We’ve given the gifts, but people just seem to want more.  We get caught up in the busyness of celebrating the season that we forget the whole point.  We talk about celebrating Jesus’ birth, but treat each other like his life has no bearing on ours whatsoever.

Maybe part of the problem is that we really haven’t heard the Good News yet.  Yes, we’ve heard the words, but we haven’t really listened to what they mean.  This passage from Luke 2 ought to be earth-shattering, life-changing news.  God has chosen what the world would say is ridiculous and absurd, a poor Jewish family in an obscure, oppressed village, to enter into our lives and turn the world upside down.  God has sent His beloved Son to take away our sins, to be our Savior, and to bring us peace – and all because God loves us!

That’s right.  God loves you, in all your broken, muddled, confused, and doubting ways, and sent His Son to die for you, so that if you will only believe in Him, trusting in His righteousness for your salvation, you shall live with God forever!  There is nothing more newsworthy, nothing filled with more goodness, than that.

My prayer for you this week is one that may not sound very pleasant, but here it goes anyway:

God, upset our lives.  Shake us from the sleepy pious boredom and spiritual neglect that has lulled us away from your powerful, life-changing, good news of great joy.  May we never again be complacent when it comes to your good news.  May this Christmas be a time when we discover again the joy of the new life you have given in your Son.  Amen.