Monday, November 29, 2010


(Originally published here on Sunday November 28, 2010)

The secret to well-being may lie in worship

Posted Nov 27, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

Nick Stoyakovich, Hope in Action
Nicholas Stojakovich’s spiritual well-being grew once he supplemented his private faith with attendance at Hope Church in Springfield.And the church was there for him when his only son, Matthew, 25, died in an August 2008 auto accident in Pennsylvania in which he was a passenger in a car that hit a pole.

“I was just an absolute mess. My whole world just came crashing down,” said Stojakovich, who lives in Springfield. “I loved my son dearly and had a lot of questions about faith. I never got angry at God as much as I just (asked), ‘God, why?’”

Without the support of his church family, Stojakovich said he doesn’t know what he would have done. They talked and prayed with him. A group of people surrounded him with love, concern and support.

“They didn’t always have the answers. It was just more listening and a hug, a card, a phone call, those types of things,” Stojakovich said.

Stojakovich, who has two daughters, misses talking to his son, but he said he knows he’ll see him again.

“Without a place called ‘Hope,’ I might not have much hope,” Stojakovich said.

Religious anchor
Stojakovich is an example of what a new Gallup-Healthways study found about Americans who say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. Those who say faith is important also have the highest rates of well-being when it comes to their emotional and physical health and their work environment.

The very religious, also defined as those who attend worship services at least every week or almost every week, scored 68.7 (on a scale of 0 to 100) on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, while the moderately religious and the nonreligious each received a score of 64.2. The finding is based on a survey of more than 550,000 people (Healthways is a global well-being company).

Religious Americans with high well-being have higher levels of life evaluation, work environment perceptions, healthy behaviors, emotional health and physical health, according to the article “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing” (available on

Researchers didn’t determine why the very religious had higher levels of well-being.

But they speculate that being highly religious generally involves more meditative states and faith in a higher power, both of which have been used as methods to lower stress, reduce depression and promote happiness. Religion provides mechanisms for coping with setbacks and life’s problems, which in turn may reduce stress, worry and anger.

Janet Nelson of Springfield said she can’t imagine how people get through life’s struggles and journeys without some spiritual awareness. Nelson’s faith helped her cope with the death last year of her brother, Donald Crusen.

“Feeling the presence of a Savior that really cared about me and recognizing that this world is a temporary place has really helped me to just take things as they come and accept that this is not my plan but a (plan a) Creator much greater than I planned,” said Nelson, who worships at St. Joseph Church and is involved in a retreat program called

Koinonia (a Greek word that means “community of faith”).

As supervisor of Catholic Charities’ Holy Family Food Pantry and Crisis Assistance Office, Nelson said working for Catholic Charities is a blessing because “it helps me to keep focused that there are many people who are struggling much worse than I am. I’m able to help thousands of people every year just with my simple gifts and talents.”

Gallup-Healthways researchers surmised that religious embodiment of the tenets of positive relationships with one’s neighbors and charitable acts may lead to a more positive mental outlook.

“Religious service attendance promotes social interaction and friendship with others, and Gallup analysis has clearly shown that time spent socially and social networks themselves are positively associated with well-being,” according to the article “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”

Religious lifestyle
Researchers said it’s possible that something about religiosity, defined as a personal importance placed on religion and frequent religious service attendance, in turn leads to a higher level of personal well-being.

Bernie Lutchman, Business Men in Christ 
For Bernie Lutchman of Chatham, worshipping God is a lifestyle that permeates everything he does.

“It’s more than just sitting in the church or standing, singing a hymn, which is great, too, but for me, it’s a lifestyle,” says Lutchman, a member of Springfield Bible Church.

His car is like a “mobile sanctuary” where he plays worship music and listens to Christian radio.

“Worship, in my mind, is a unidirectional, upward giving back to God what He is due in the form of praise, prayer. It involves every aspect of your life, every fiber of your being, physically and spiritually, in total dedication to him, honoring him.”

Cheryl Plunkett of Springfield, who worships at Laurel United Methodist Church, said people who worship regularly feel better about their lives.

“At church, I am able to share cares and concerns with fellow church members, not only mine but theirs as well,” said Plunkett, who added that when she’s not in church on Sunday, there is something missing in her week.

“Through that sharing, I feel better about my life, and I hope they feel better about theirs. We have opportunities through Laurel’s many mission projects to provide assistance to those in need, which gives a feeling of satisfaction that we are able to help other people.”

Stojakovich said there were periods in his life when he wasn’t regularly connected to a local church. He didn’t want to get involved in corporate group dynamics.

“I personally did not grow in my spiritual journey as a result of that and decided in 1995 or thereabouts to re-attend a church that I had visited in the ’80s, Hope Church,” Stojakovich said.

“I found it very meaningful to me to attend a community worship event at a local church and found that I was personally much more satisfied than just trying to go it alone.”

Religious behavior
Gallup-Healthways researchers said highly religious Americans’ healthier behaviors may have multiple causes.

For example, some faiths urge followers to avoid tobacco, alcohol and other potentially harmful things, and to, as Lutchman put it, avoid “running yourself ragged, chasing material things.

“Men and women are body, mind and soul. The mind is the heart where the Holy Spirit of God lives,” said Lutchman, who added that he’s had pretty good health most of his life. He said he doesn’t get stressed. He doesn’t drink or smoke. He eats right.

“I have to keep my mind fed on good things from above, which makes me want to live healthier, which makes me worship 24/7 as I do now,” Lutchman said.

Lutchman said that Romans 12:1 implies that physical well-being is closely aligned with worship: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”(New Living Translation).

Prayer demonstrates a faith and a worship lifestyle that could withstand the times, no matter how much things collapse around us, Lutchman said.

“Because we know our permanent abode is not of this natural world,” Lutchman said.

Tamara Browning can be reached at 788-1534.

Copyright 2010 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Light of....GIVE THANKS!

Psalm 147:7
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.
Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Colossians 4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
1 Timothy 4:4-5
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

As life seems to be on a runaway track; or world events cascade out of control etc...these things should not surprise us. They were predicted in His Word. What should concern us is a Daily, COMPLETE and Spirit-filled Walk with our Jesus that fills the very depths and widths of our very souls with an attidude of Gratitude at what He has done for us.

Therefore, in light of the fact how He has healed my aching shoulders or your bad knee or given us the very food on our table, never stop praising and raising His Amazing Name, give thanks.

In light of the fact that He knew us before the Foundation world, chose us for Salvation and for the Kingdom of His Dear Son, give thanks.

In light of the fact that all the Prophets and Psalms predicted and described, to the day, His Virgin Birth, Life, Persecution, Death and Resurrection, give thanks.

In light of the fact that the Word became flesh, dwelt among us, but next time, He will be returning as He really was from Eternity past...King of Kings and Lord of Lords, give thanks.

In light of the fact that it were not for the Grace, love and His amazing sacrifice on the Cross, where His blood covered my sins (past, present and future), give thanks.

In light of the fact that He has offered Salvation, Eternal Life and Adoption as sons, GIVE THANKS!!


Saturday, November 20, 2010



1) Deny yourself - James and John coveted the limelight. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory. Mark 10:37. One of your greatest challenges will be to resist promoting yourself and trying to succeed on your own, then asking God to bless your efforts. God's not interested in second-hand glory. He wants the credit for what He (not you) accomplishes in your life.

2) Take up your cross - Nobody goes directly from denying themselves to following Jesus. First we go through crucifying experiences. Paul says: 'I die daily' 1Corinthians 15:31. Certain things in your life can be handled only one way - dying to them. Listen: 'Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God' Romans 6:11. Jesus did not even talk about the cross to His disciples, until He knew they understood this principle. Why? Because until you do, you will never see the cross as a plus.

3) Follow Him - Too often we take God's presence for granted because He said He would never leave us. But He also said: 'You did not choose me...I chose you' John 15:16. It is not God's job to follow you, it is your job to follow Him! When you do, it will cost you, change you, and challenge you. Sometimes you will go through valleys, other times you will stand with Him on the mountaintop. You must be willing to follow Him anywhere, any time, under any conditions; that is the deal! Still want to be a disciple of Jesus?
Matthew 10:38
and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Luke 9:23
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."

Luke 14:27
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.


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Saturday, November 13, 2010


Providing a journey to wholeness -

We Christians sometimes say about the Bible: "I know it in my head, but not in my heart". It is a western trait to believe that knowing something is enough... But we need to fully apply the Good News Jesus gave us, to our whole lives, for it to really change us... So, if some of the Gospel points below don’t feel totally real to you, it will help to ask how they make you think and feel, then ask God to show you what they mean to your life, in all its stages.

- twelve nuggets of truth dug carefully
from the Bible- molded, with God's help, to your life
Faith in these truths will enrich you beyond
your wildest dreams - for this world
- and the next!

1. God made everything, and is everywhere; he is a Spirit
2. God is love. He wants to care for us as his dear children
3. But people wanted their own way, so evil has been able to have its way with us all
4. God sent his son Jesus to earth, to be born and grow up just as we do, so he would be able to help us
5. Jesus showed how he was God by the powerful miracles he did out of love; also by how totally good he was
6. Jesus was unjustly ordered to be killed by jealous people, but he came to life again after three days in the grave
7. Wise people around the world had said these things would happen (especially in the Bible)
8. When we die, Jesus will judge what we are like. But not one of us is good enough for there is no wrong in heaven
9. But when Jesus died on the Roman cross, he suffered the punishment for all us. So when we sadly admit to him that we’re not good, that we've done many things wrong, he can forgive us
10. And God can help us change the way we think (repent) as we look at the things we’ve done wrong
11. God shows us good and right ways to behave; and He gives us strength to love him and each other
12. We become a member of God's family, and he can look after us, and we will all be together with him forever
Apply these to our

- Learning with our
5 senses, conception

- Learning from the
family (toddler)
- Learning to com-
municate (4-7 years)
- Learning about all
creation (8-11 yrs)
- Learning about
ourselves (puberty)
- Training for work
(young adult)
- Occupation, work
(career & adult life)
- Retirement (voluntary
work, peace and rest)
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Minister To Seniors?

“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.” (NKJV)

As another year draws to a close, we hear it everywhere: "man, time is going by quickly"...or "where did the year go" and so on. It used to be when we were young whipper snappers, we couldn't wait to get old!  Then we got old and oh... to be young again!  Then, it used to be that only older folks would say the years are going faster as the grey hairs added on...or disappeared entirely. But now, even young people are complaining it is going by too fast!!

How do we 'splain this phenomenon?! Well, if we entirely thinking in the worldly sense, we could say, well - think of life as a roll of bathroom tissue. The close you get to the end of the roll, the faster the sheets fly off it! Well, extrapolate that to the Bible.  LIKE IT OR NOT - THESE ARE THE END TIMES...and not just because all the prophesies of Scripture point to it! But we are seeing these events unfolding right before our eyes!

So what do we do? Well, we look into our hearts and develop a passion for God's people! For example, Senior Retirement Centers (whether assisted living or otherwise) are full of so many lost and lonely people, we have a veritable field of Ministry just waiting for missionaries like you and I! We don't need any vaccine shots, passports and fundraising for overseas travel for this - all  you need is love (Beatles 1967)!!

Who lives in these homes? Well, they are not just parents and relatives, but folks who were just working down with hall in the office just a couple years ago....or were put there by their family (who never heard of the only Commandment with a condition...honor your father and mother....). Having gone to pass out Gideon Bibles in different towns in Illinois since the mid 1990's to minister with my wife, kids and her parents (Sonshine Outreach Ministries), I can testify to the urgency of not just ministering in song and smiles to them...but getting them the Gospel now!! They have a desperate need to be saved!!! I don't care if they don't know it yet, but they are closer to meeting Jesus than most of us are.

So, in order to keep this short, what can you and I do? Start by figuring out what gift God gave you. Is it Mercy, compassion or caring for the sick? Buy some Gospel tracts. Christmas is coming, well, go ahead and call a nursing home and take some fruit or hand towels or even a talking bird! Take your guitar and sing them some songs then read the Bible to them...tell them your testimony....I can go on for hours here! There are many opportunities like these in almost any town in America. It is the largest unreached people group as most churches won't go there...the same way the churches won't do street evangelism - (same reason - not flashy enough, I guess).

In other words, we know the answer. Let's do as Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers once said "brothers and sisters - Do something, do something, DO SOMETHING"!!! If you have any information or need help starting a senior ministry in your town, feel free to email me or leave a comment here or on Facebook!

(Photos: Google Images)
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Saturday, November 6, 2010



Wednesday, November 3, 2010


2 Corinthians 6:15 (ESV) says~~ “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”Y
The decline of the American evangelical church has actually been traced to the Second Great Awakening and Charles Finney’s Revivals…but those could be books for another day! What is happening now makes a snow avalanche in Colorado look tame! Here in Springfield we have a church-based hospital promoting the practice of Reiki Massage for healing! Several other churches here and across America included “Christian Yoga” in their programs. Not to be outdone, we have the Chatham, Illinois school system teaching Yoga in their Physical Education! (By the way, would the Ball-Chatham School District consider letting Christian quarterback Tim Tebow come in and tell kids how to stay chaste and pure in a corrupt, perverted world? No way! He’s a Christian!)


Yes, there is something rotten in the state of Christianity. To understand this trend towards not just Eastern Mysticism but immersion into the pagan religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, we have to know what both Reiki and Yoga are.
The Reiki practiced in too many hospitals and only certain other medical centers is done by a so-called trained “Reiki Master” who is versed in the art of sending “Healing Energies” around the world into the patient, using the “Seven Chakras”. This is done by the laying of hands in specific ways and other-worldly meditations to treat certain illnesses.

Chakras are so-called “energy centers” allegedly from the base of the pelvic system to top of the head. “Tantric sex” is an extension of this pagan eastern practice. They also allegedly hold the “key to life” and energy in the Universe!!! Have you ever heard such heresy! Do some professing Christians need to be reminded that Jesus is NOT just the “Key to Life” but THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE (John 14:6)?! Do they need to be reminded that “all good things come from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17)…and this includes the True Source of Energy – the Holy Spirit?! 
Like Reiki, Yoga is body-centric and depends on the surrendering of one’s mind to another level of consciousness. Christians are not supposed to empty their minds and use their body as a vehicle to connect the physical to some sort of Higher “Source” or spirit! On the contrary, blessed is the man who does NOT walk in the counsel, culture, conformity of the ungodly…and his delight is in the Law of the Lord…on which he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

Yoga has exploded in gyms, churches and schools!
More and more churches are using Yoga as part of a fitness program, as some of their members (who are more culturally diverse) see the rest of the outside world participating.  Fitness clubs already have this for their members. Why parents at the Chatham middle school and others are not protesting their children being indoctrinated into Hinduism/Buddhism by the inclusion of yoga into the phys/end curriculum is mystifying! One only has to look at the positions and know they are not harmless physical exercises. 
Participants in so-called “Christian yoga” will say they practice “hatha” yoga (which is supposed to be only the physical discipline part of it). They will insist it’s not the full Hindu practice of “kundalini” yoga….and I believe them. HOWEVER, by its very nature, the physical and the spiritual in yoga cannot be separated. While some people may think they can substitute the monosyllable “om” chant with Psalm 23…it simply does not compute!! Every physical position in yoga signifies a specific part of that eastern cult, whether Christians in post-modern American Christianity deny it or not! True yoga adherents and Hindus are laughing under their breath at our people who think they can compartmentalize Christ and think purely of this as the fine art of stretching and good health!  Personally, I can’t comprehend a person reciting “the Lord is my Shepherd”, while putting the index finger and thumb in a circle with an ankle behind your head!  

Am I saying all Christians who practice yoga are unbelievers? No! It does mean that the level of Biblical discernment is in questionable shape! If you speak to former Buddhists and Hindus they will explain the folly AND RISK of leaving one’s mind and consciousness, no matter how innocent it may seem, susceptible to the powers of the air, when our call is different. Christians are to look to Jehovah Rapha – the God Who heals, through intense prayer and intercession to get His blessings on our ailments…and He may direct us to the right doctor, in such an event. We are to look to Christ as our only discipline – the Author and Perfector of our Faith. We are to reason together with God (Isaiah 1:18 ) Who has made our scarlet sins as white as snow. We are to be totally conscious at all times why the Joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10)….not let our brain go slack and give the devil yet another opening to attack our souls.  
Being a True Disciple of Christ is not blind following. It’s conscious, firm and uncompromising decision made with body, mind and soul. All components of the human condition are in play. Jesus said the Greatest Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and MIND”! Anything which deviates from this well….you decide…
Credits: photos from BING Images)