Summary: Answers the question: Are you a bold pioneer who is exploring new non-traditional ways of expressing faith and interacting with the Body of Christ - or are you just skipping church and quietly backsliding?

Dakota Community Church

April 29, 2007

Vital Signs

I recently went to the doctor for a general physical. Besides being violated, and crying all the time for about three days, it was only mildly horrifying. I was sent home with a blood pressure monitor to keep an eye on my “stage one hypertension”. An appointment was made for me to see a dietician who put me on what she called a ham diet, it sounded great until she explained that ham was an acronym for Half As Much. Now I am going to be going for a stress test because apparently the ministry is famous as a line of work that leads to break downs and other heart related illnesses.

I’m learning that I need to keep a closer check on my health, to not take it for granted so much, to stop neglecting and abusing my health and the body God has given me.

Not all of us are good at picking up on the warning signs around us.

If your wife refers to you as “the ex” when she is talking to the milk man – that could be a vital sign you are missing.

If the boss keeps talking about how much more efficient the temp who filled in while you were on sick leave was – that could be a sign you are not picking up on. When co-workers start greeting you with, “Are you still here” – it may be too late.

Here’s a test.

You drive up to the house after a long day at work. The lawn is still not mowed and there are skateboards and bikes and toys all over it, you have to get out of the car to move junk out of the way before you can even park. When you open the front door you are greeted by the sound of children screaming, there is the smell of dog feces in the air and there are toys strewn on the floor everywhere you look. Your wife is at the top of the stairs looking like she has been dragged through an old west town behind a horse and when she senses your displeasure she greets you with a loving, “What is your problem?”

If you picked up on the vital signs you quietly respond; “Nothing honey, just glad to be home.”

If you failed to pick up on the vital signs you scowl and say, “I can’t smell dinner.”

There are often parallels between the natural and the physical. Just like the heart rate monitor the doctor sent me home with there are monitors we can use to keep an eye on our spiritual vital signs.

The church is going through many changes, especially the younger generation. Many once automatically accepted patterns are being questioned and re-examined. Things like the importance of Sunday morning attendance, the need for buildings to congregate in, the amount of money that is spent internally as opposed to externally in meeting of real needs. These are important issues and I think it is a good thing to evaluate them.

One thing I think we need to be careful of at times like this is the risk of deceiving ourselves. It is possible to say that we are in a time of transition; that we are searching for a new kind of more “Christ-like” Christianity, but instead to be slowly losing spiritual ground and drifting from both God and Church.

Today I want to give you three vital sign monitors. If you check these and they are in the healthy range, then you know you are a-ok. If they are out of whack, you may be fooling yourself and drifting into dangerous waters.

1. I am connecting with God on a daily basis.

Healthy Christians connect with God daily!

How do we know this important and not just a tactic pastors use to make people feel guilty and to keep them coming to church?

Matthew 6:9-13

This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Notice that He begins with worship. – Intimate worship is a part of connecting with God.

Notice that we are to submit to Lordship, how often do you need to be reminded of that?

Thirdly he brings up provision and actually says “daily bread”. I think this should be about more than just natural needs. I think it has do with planned spiritual development as well.

Then it is on to relationships with others forgiving and being forgiven.

Finally He deals with the reality of life on a fallen planet as fallen people. Daily we need to deal with our own flesh and with the forces of darkness arrayed against us.

Then it is back to a posture of worship.

Everyday we need to be reminding ourselves that this world is not our home!

Proverbs 8:34

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Luke 9:23-25

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

2. I am maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

Healthy Christians maintain balance in all areas of their lives.

One of the things I had to do when I went to see the dietician was keep a record of everything I ate and drank for 4 days leading up to the appointment. The dietician told me that this was to allow them to see if I had a nutritionally balance diet. (Cold Stone Creamery)

You can lose weight on an unbalanced eating regimen but in the long run you do more harm than good.

What areas of life do we need to be balancing?

The spiritual life. (Your relationship with God)

The social life. (Your relationships with other people.)

The career life. (Your work or education.)

The physical life. (Your diet exercise and overall health.)

The family life. (Your wife, kids, parents, grandparents…)

The ministry life. (Your service in response to God’s call.)

There will be an ebb and flow to all of these parts of life, some taking higher priority for periods of time and then resettling. I’m reminded of the song about moving to the rhythms of His grace. The thing we need to be wary of is unhealthy and prolonged extremes.

I’m sure we can all think of someone who has gotten out of balance in one of these areas. Take career as an example. The scriptures warn of two extremes.

Proverbs 23:4

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.

2 Thessalonians 3:10

When we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

You can become unbalanced by doing too much or too little in all of these areas of life – they are all vital to a fulfilling and Godly life.

3. I am engaging in healthy spiritual conversations.

Healthy Christians talk about spiritual issues in a positive light with other believers and they watch for Spirit lead opportunities to engage non-believers in spiritual conversations.

Are you having any faith based conversations?

Why would this be a vital sign for determining spiritual health?

Luke 6:43-45

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

If you don’t want to talk about Him – that is a vital sign, you may be headed toward flat-lining.

If you only want to talk negatively about faith issues, I don’t mean you should never speak up if you see something wrong, I mean if all you want to do is complain – that is a vital sign, it is revealing something about your heart.

If you have fallen into being single issue minded – that is a vital sign. What do I mean by that? If you have a bee in your bonnet over some theological issue or doctrine or prejudice, and that is all you want to talk about – that is a bad sign.

What are some examples of single issue mindedness?

- evangelism

- faith

- worship styles

- divorce and remarriage

- spiritual gifts

None of these are bad things to talk about in themselves, in fact they are all things we should talk about – the problem comes when one of them becomes all we want to discuss, or is not open to discussion at all.

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