Gratitude: Medicine to the Mind, Body and Soul

The light in young woman hands in cupped shape. Concepts of sharing, giving, offering, taking care, protection

by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

I don’t remember ever taking a course in gratitude. Do you? Yet, I suspect that all I have continued to learn about the holistic benefits ruminating on gratitude is probably more important to my health and well-being than most can imagine.

Our alternative is grim. We can choose to graze on the awfulness of all around us. A 10-minute stop to watch any news channel will give us 1001 reasons to worry, to get upset, to raise our blood pressure, to increase the cortisol levels in our bloodstream and to ensure a decline in our mental, emotional, physical and relational well-being.

I have learned from personal experience that when I begin my day in a quiet, personal reflection on God and His Word and even before opening the Word, I write out 7 things for which I am grateful, it jump starts my mind and soul and sets me off on a winning trajectory that helps me face the challenges the day will inadvertently give me.

Indeed, multiple studies are showing how expressing gratitude (to God and others) reduces stress, increases optimism and changes our brain.

More and more, even unchurched people that are seeking out a lifestyle that afford them mental, emotional and physical healthy are practicing daily (and moment by moment) gratitude and finding the holistic benefits to their lives.

As you know, I always rejoice when modern scientific studies validate the ancient wisdom we have at our fingertips in the word.

Paul, in Ephesians 5:15-20 invites us to walk in wisdom:

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as WISE, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be UNWISE, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for ALL THINGS to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”(NKJV—bold and italic applied by author).

We are living in trying times. Now—in the midst of what we are being told will be a “dark winter” due to Covid fallout, I invite you and yours to consider the medicinal effects of living in gratitude as we celebrate some unique and unusual upcoming holidays.  Let’s make some time to spend counting the blessings we are enjoying while we continue to find ways to serve those less fortunate in our circles of influence. 

I found a great article written by Courtney Ackerman where he divides 28 benefits of gratitude into five different categories (emotional, social, personality career and health benefits) and offers the proper scientific data for his conclusions:

https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole hearts; I will tell of all Your marvelous works, I will be glad and rejoice in YOU; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1 (NKJV).

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Election Fallout: How to Help Your Church

I voted stickers with united states flag with human hands

Heather Crews, Pastor of the Courthouse Road Church in Richmond, Virginia shares her thoughts on how to handle members and politics.

  • Acknowledge to yourself what you are feeling
  • Choose to listen in order to understand
  • Name the situation publicly
  • Bring the Hope

Read the full article here

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Are We Masking Our Religious Liberty?

The article published on November 25, 2020, titled “Are We Masking Our Religious Liberty?,” does not represent the views of the North Pacific Union Conference or our member conferences. 

It is not the role of the NPUC to give medical advice. From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the NPUC has encouraged our conferences and churches to follow the guidelines of state and local health officials. 

Those with questions or concerns related to COVID-19 are urged to speak with their primary care physicians. We continue to encourage members to follow the guidelines of their state and local public health department.

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Reaching an Entire City

Great example of how technology can facilitate social distance during crises that require staying at home.   Case of during pandemic isolation by COVID-19.

by Ofa Langi, Pastor of the Auburn City Adventist Church

We had originally planned to have meetings with Evangelist Brian McMahon April 16-May 9, 2020. As the world knows, Covid-19 hit and we have been altering our plans and adjusting as we go. With an alternative option to join It Is Written’s virtual meetings, we jumped on the opportunity to do evangelism. Our local Elders, Finance Committee along with the Church Board agreed to be a part of the virtual meetings. We set people in place and started picking out leaders and virtual Bible workers. As leaders, we watched and participated in the online training sessions as we prepared for the meetings.

The It Is Written meetings started as planned, but there were some major challenges. The server crashing opening night, the switching of the follow up and tracking participants program was challenging. Our most difficult issue was trying to train and transition our older volunteer virtual Bible workers to a new system. This really discouraged our volunteers. We struggled to stay connected with our online database participants and tracking was a major issue.

But there was the bright spot in all of this for our church. These issues helped us be intentional about prayer, outreach and evangelism. As a result we started praying. Our 40 Days of Prayer journey went from 40 days to a 100 days of praying and corporately fasting on Wednesdays. The church was better connected as a result of praying together.

The mindset shifted from taking care of our members to what can we do to bring hope to our city, which led to a community assessment where we learned that there was a need for covid testing and food security. As a matter of prayer, the Lord blessed us in partnership with Harborview Medical and UW Medical through our local mayors office to secure free covid testing at our church. We also were able to secure food for distribution. For the last 20 weeks or so, we have been able to provide free covid testing along with food distributions on Tuesdays. We have extended our food distributions at our location to Thursdays and Fridays and Mondays and Wednesdays at the Puyallup Adventist Church. Through our ministry to the community, we now have people who have joined our church and attend worship Sabbath morning as well as other activities.

As a result of community contacts and partnering with our local government, the mayor’s office paid to bring a dental van out to our church three times. The city of Auburn’s Health Director is currently looking over the NEW START health program. If approved, we will be leading out in teaching the NEW START health program to the whole city of Auburn. We are also collaborating with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to research the air quality here in Auburn. This study will benefit the church by building positive relations in our community by providing actual test numbers and ways we will be working to increase better air quality for our city. As a pastor, I recently was invited to and have accepted the position to be on the newly established Chief of Police Advisory Committee for the Auburn Police Department.

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Surprise Baptism

by Gerizin De Pena, Pastor of the Salem Spanish Adventist Church

In mid-July, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, we were blessed to hold virtual evangelistic meetings entitled “Today is Your Day. During these meetings, we had an average of 200 people connected every day. Several of the local families, watching the virtual meetings, were receiving Bible studies from members of the Salem Spanish and were making the decision for Christ. In addition to these, dozens of people in various parts of the world who also embraced Jesus as their only personal Savior.

I want to highlight the wonderful experience that occurred at the baptism on Saturday, August 29th, in the Willamette River in Salem, Oregon. That beautiful afternoon, with social distancing, a group of brethren got together to celebrate the baptism of a family of five. As we sang by the river, an Anglo man, named Nicholas, was observing our baptism. When we finish singing and praying, we proceeded to the baptismal ceremony. When we finished the baptism, Nicholas mentioned to a member about his desire to talk to me.

When Nicholas approached me, he said “God has touched my life and I need you to please baptize me now!” He spoke to me with conviction and a cry of the heart that could only reflect the sincerity of when the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip the same question. I immediately asked him if he believed and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and the answer was yes. Upon perceiving this impressive work of the Holy Spirit, I returned with this man again to the waters and there I baptized him. I have never seen such a cheerful face and expression of such joy in a newly baptized as I saw that afternoon. He looked like a child who just received a toy he had desired all his life!

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Filed under Changed Lives, Soul Winning

Feeling Stressed Out?

by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

Well, after eight months of Covid monitoring, and social isolation, one of the most contentious election seasons in American history, on-going racial tensions and equities, an increasing number of people we know, getting sick or being laid off . . . Feeling stressed out seems to be part of a developing “new normal.”

The most important question we must ask ourselves isn’t “what stressors are impacting my life?”  Rather, How am I responding to or managing the stressors in my life?”   

HOW we respond to life stressors—real or imagined—is a life or death matter.

If we tend to respond to our changing life circumstances with a mostly positive, optimistic attitude and are experiencing a growing faith and confidence in a loving God, even in the midst of growing unknowns, then, our positive mindset is aiding our immune system so that it will optimally and efficiently fight threatening invaders.   

If, on the other hand, we are one of the tens of millions of people who were imprinted (in their earliest years) to respond to unpleasant events and circumstances with negative or pessimistic thoughts (for example: “Only bad things happen to me;” “I’ve always been unlucky and I’ll never be happy”), or if our default emotions in uncertain circumstances are debilitating fear, generalized anxiety, or uncontrollable worry, then it is urgent that we take a few minutes to ponder upon the very pivotal relationship that exists between experiencing chronic stress and dis-eases leading to early death.

As a result of the sin originating in the garden of Eden, many of us grew in homes where fear, anxiety, and worry reigned freely. Without realizing it, our thought patterns, although we are now adults, follow the same patterns with which they were stamped during our early brain and emotional response development.  Now, whenever we are faced with a new (or chronic) stressors, our habitually pessimistic thoughts and responses ignite a process in the hypothalamus, that instructs our adrenal glands to secrete a cocktail of substances (including adrenaline and cortisol) that will activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to equip us fight against any circumstance, event or person we perceive as a threat to our existence.

Cortisol and adrenaline are the substances that prepare the body to respond in immediate action to a threat (real or imagined) and are intended to help us with an immediate solution so that we can immediately change or modify our current conditions to preserve our life. This immediate reaction is referred to as acute stress.  These two substances are our friends as long as they remain in our bloodstream for a short time.  They are designed to help us find immediate solutions to our acute problems.

The problem begins when cortisol and adrenaline begin to have an enduring presence in our bloodstream and instead of clearing out, hang around for an indefinite amount of time.  This experience is called chronic stress.

When we have learned—often in our childhood—to react to any change or situation over which we have no control with fear, anxiety, or chronic worry, cortisol and adrenaline levels in the blood actually disrupt almost every system in our body. 

The hippocampus attempts to defend against increased levels of cortisol and secretes a substance that begins to affect our cognition, our ability to reason and think clearly, including our ability to have good judgment and make good decisions.  Cortisol actually has the ability to change the composition and functioning of our brain due to the chronic stress that interferes with the growth and development of dendrites. 

But cortisol doesn’t stop there, it also destroys the function of our cardiovascular system by hardening the arteries, decreasing or increasing the rhythm of our heart, and by creating muscle tension in the neck, face or shoulders. The delicate endocrine system that has to do with regulating the functioning of all organs is gravely affected. Increased levels of cortisol also affect the gastrointestinal system, contributing to ulcers, heartburn, and changes in bowel habits common to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases. 

In the end, chronic stress kills! An overtaxed immune system is exhausted and vulnerable because T cells and other cells that defend against attacks by microbes and viruses begin to die, leaving our bodies exposed to all kinds of diseases, including various types of cancers.

It is almost unbelievable to realize that the deadly phenomenon of chronic stress begins with a learned thought pattern. Indeed, each of us holds the power to determine the quality of the thoughts (pessimistic or optimistic) that we will have in reaction to the adverse events or circumstances that will invade our lives—sooner or later. Once we understand this, we can begin to monitor and change our learned pattern of responding to life stressors.

How we choose to respond to the “irregularities” (large or small) in our environment over which we have no control, really does matter!   

If we can determine in our hearts to respond to the challenges in our lives with positivism, with confidence in God, with a cheerful courage and we choose to believe that whatever happens to us can be recycled by an all-loving God into an eternal blessing, then we can begin to live the abundant life that Jesus came to exemplify.

No wonder Paul’s words, inspired by the Author of our nervous system, continue to resonate over the centuries: “Be anxious for NOTHING, but byprayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6; NKJ). 

Jesus Himself emphasized the directive that we shouldn’t worry about ANYTHING. As our consummate Creator, God programmed our bodies perfectly so that we can respond to life’s crises without having to suffer the harmful aftermath of chronic stress.  Because God knew that living with chronic stress—manifested in chronic states of worry, fear, and anxieties—destroys the human system in installments. No doubt that is why He uttered instructive phrases that protect the obedient disciple: “Therefore I say to you, DO NOT WORRY about your life. . .” (Matt. 6:25) “Do NOT WORRY about tomorrow…” (Matt. 6:33).

What a relief! We do NOT have to worry!  What hope and health (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) is ours when every cell in our bodies assimilate that Christ has already overcome death—one of humanity’s primary, universal fears.

Christ promises to travel with us through every stage of our earthly journey and offers us just the perfect amount of grace, courage, faith, and trust that will open the floodgate of His incomprehensible peace; even in the midst of the increasingly common vicissitudes and crucibles that are part of our earthly sojourn.

It is my prayer that each reader will continue to investigate and study the issue of stress and God’s antidote. May He aid us in identifying and shattering patterns of thoughts and emotions that may be undermining our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When Jesus spoke, “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you…” (John 14:27; NKJ), He was speaking to you and to me.

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Science Falsely so Called

Science and medicine, scientist analyzing and dropping a sample into a glassware, experiments containing chemical liquid in laboratory on glassware, DNA structure, innovative and technology.

by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

“I have been warned that henceforth we shall have a constant contest.  Science,  so-called, and religion will be placed in opposition to each other, because finite men do not comprehend the power and greatness of God.”  Ev 593.

Duh!  Ever since Charles Darwin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Cambridge in England, religion has been threatened by “so-called science.”  People forget that Darwin’s primary training was in religion.  He was thinking of becoming a country parson, able to delve into his hobbies, like the study of nature, without much trouble.  A religion degree in the 1830s, I think, was the equivalent of a general studies degree.  It often was the degree for those who simply wanted a college education, but weren’t sure of their career future.

But the religion department of Cambridge was full of professors heavily influenced by the fairly recent trend of “higher criticism” of the Bible;  that is, the belief that the Bible was not inspired nor historically accurate.  Nature and its laws were becoming more prominent in the eyes of the educated, leaving less room for the presence of a super-natural God.  Thus Darwin had a poor education in religion, even though it was at Cambridge.

Add to that the comparatively poor biological science of the early 19th Century and the theory of evolution took deep root.   Though I rarely say it this bluntly (publicly, that is!), the theory of evolution is an outstanding example of 19th Century science!  Though we have moved well past the discovery of genetics, the theory has stubbornly held on. 

“Science,” from the Latin for “knowledge,” has always been a popular thing to try to acquire.  Think of the tree in the Garden of Eden!   But how rare true knowledge is.  If people REALLY wanted truth, would they not seek it from God, Whose Son came as the embodiment of truth?  The more I study Scripture, the more I realize how desperately messed up we all are.  I wonder at times how God has revealed Himself to me as the loving Creator He is, despite all the garbage in my brain!  “The heart is desperately wicked….”

We believe that we have been blessed with “the Truth.”  And we have.  Despite this, Wikipedia loves to define Scientific Creationism as a “pseudo science.”  It’s funny that they use those terms because that is exactly what I Timothy 6:20 warns the church about avoiding:  “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.”  The Greek literally says in that last phrase to avoid “antitheses of pseudo science!”

We live in a world where “fake news” is common.  And when it comes to origins, we also see “fake science” proclaimed with religious fervor.  Look at the opening statement in this article by EG White from the book Evangelism.  She predicts a “constant contest.”  It’s about light and darkness, the truth from God versus the lies from Satan.  At the Creation Study Center we are trying to shed light on the greatest truths ever revealed to mortal man, despite the contesting forces.  Man is not animated pond scum, nor a walking mutant.  Instead we are all royalty, children of the King.  And the King loves us!

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God’s Miracle Series

Network Connections World Map Polygon Graphic Background with Connected Lines.

by Myckal Morehouse, Pastor of the Stone Tower Adventist Church

In the Fall of 2019, we were gearing up for a great prophecy series scheduled for April of 2020. We had scheduled the Oregon Conference evangelist, we were participating in the Voice of Prophecy national evangelistic campaign, and we had all our funding in place to reach over
100,000 homes in advertising — that’s until a global disaster hit! With Coronavirus sweeping around the world, and cities shutting down across America, our prophecy series was cancelled. We had literally thousands of dollars in brochures that were printed and sitting in a warehouse that we were unable to use, and unable to get a refund for! We wondered together,
how could God use what little we had left in our budget, in the midst of global pandemic, to somehow reach our city when no one was allowed out of their homes to attend public events?

But God is bigger than any pandemic, and miracles happen when God’s people face red-sea sized obstacles with faith that God can make a way through. So instead of backing down or shutting down, we decided to press forward and try something innovative, we decided to take a risk! With four weeks to pull it all together, and only one fourth of our remaining budget, we began planning to host a virtual evangelistic series through Zoom, placing our faith in God’s ability to bring people, as He always does.

Opening night we were amazed as devices from all over our city and across the country began logging on to our zoom meeting. We watched as people engaged through the Zoom chat, responded to the appeals and made commitments for the Sabbath, the State of the Dead, and yes even Baptism! Unlike a traditional meeting, we didn’t take a break. We went 25 nights straight, and did absolutely zero preliminaries keeping the meeting to under an hour every night. We just went for the basics (preaching our message) and God blessed! A dozen made a commitment for baptism, many more committed to keeping the Sabbath, but the miracle God did was even bigger.

God’s miracle series reached one of our members who had moved to the east coast. She was praying for God to use her to be His witness during this pandemic. That’s when she got the idea of sharing the links from the whole series to a facebook friend who lived in Kenya, Africa. Little did she realize that her friend owned a radio station that broadcasts all over Kenya. This
friend decided to advertise and broadcast the series over radio and as a result over one hundred people have requested Bible studies and eight have called in to the radio station requesting baptism.

So a series that was nearly cancelled through a global pandemic, through the miracles of God, has reached hundreds for the kingdom around the world and has brought precious souls into our church family. We rejoice to see those making decisions for Christ. Praise God, His truth is marching on!

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Unexpected Visit Proves Worth of Drive-In Church

Read this inspiring storyabout how, despite a lack of indoor church services, the Anchorage Northside Church is still able to minister the community, even reaching those curious and first-time visitors.

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Filed under Changed Lives, Soul Winning

A Little Friendliness Goes a Long Way

"Close up of church parking visitors welcome sign, horizontal."

“My name is “Cindy.”  I am no longer in the area, but before I unsubscribe to the mailing list, I want to thank a few people specifically for welcoming me every Sabbath that I attended while I was in Portland. I honestly miss it even though I was only there for a few weeks and only got to speak to a few people.

This is a little embarrassing because I didn’t catch hers, but to the tall beautiful lady at the door who always remembered my name and welcomed me by name every Sabbath–you are such a huge reason why I kept coming back. There’s something that feels like Jesus when someone knows your name–especially when you hardly know anyone and you’re in a new city all alone. Thank you so very much.

To the gentleman who set me up on the mailing list so that I could get the sabbath school links every week and feel up to date, thank you. You made me feel like attending a new church for the first time all alone was the most natural thing in the world; and after that my nervous heart was okay. You gave me a bottle of water and took the time to email me the sabbath school link that morning so that, even though no one was in the church right then and there, I could join in. You are the reason I kept coming back, too.

I’ve rarely in my life attended church alone. I’ve always gone with friends or family. I have to admit that it was a conscious decision to push past the awkwardness and loneliness of attending alone–but I knew that as soon as I got 50 feet from the door I would hear a “Good morning, “Cindy!”  Happy Sabbath” and I’ve never been more excited to get my temperature checked. 

God bless you all,
Never grow weary in well-doing, for “in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”

I will always anticipate my next visit.” 

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