The Personal Impact of Faith: The Therapy of Laughter
“I take my faith very seriously; therefore there is no time for laughter or joy.” “We must work while we can.” “The world is such a dark place my heart cannot smile.” “That sounds so spiritual.”
But is the absence of joy and laughter a sign of commitment and dedication? Some may argue that position. However when I look at a passage of Scripture like Proverbs 17:22 it offers a fresh new perspective: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Simply stated, there is great therapeutic and spiritual value in laughter. Children understand this far more than adults. One article I read recently noted that “children laugh 400 times per day, adults 15 times.” The article pointed out further that Laughter reduces pain and stress, increases resistance to infection and alleviates emotional problems. Laughter does this by stimulating the blood circulation and the release of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. Laughter triggers secretion of adrenaline which acts on the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone which in turn stimulates the adrenal cortex of the kidneys to release cortisol which has anti-inflammation properties. Laughter also stimulates release of endorphins – chemicals with pain relieving properties like opiates – from the hypothalamus.
It is important to serve the Lord with passion and intensity. But that does not mean we cannot take the time to enjoy the gift of laughter. Let me go one step further: failure to experience the freedom from burdens and challenges in a way that creates laughter can lead to severe emotional trauma. This emotional trauma will not only cause pain and sadness; it can short-circuit our ministry effectiveness.
So what are some key checkpoints? First, take time to laugh. Then, help others who are burdened to experience the medicinal value of a good laugh from time to time. Ask God to give you eyes to see and ear to hear the joy markers He has placed in your experience.
Is it spiritual to take our work seriously? Absolutely! But it is also spiritual to take some heart medicine by enjoying what God has given us through moments of emotional freedom. Let’s enjoy the life that God has given. This is Larry Mercer for the Moody Broadcasting Network.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. 1995. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WI.
The Personal Impact of Faith: The Therapy of Church Attendance
Perhaps you have heard these statements in your conversations with people as well: “I can worship God alone in my apartment.” Or “God can hear my prayer just as well from my house as He can from the church building.” Both of those statements are true. You can worship God alone in your apartment. God can hear your prayer if you voice it from your house.
But in addition to being obedient, there are some very definite spiritual and therapeutic benefits of church attendance. By now you are asking the question, what do you mean by the phrase “therapeutic benefits of church attendance?”
Several major universities like the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health documented that there are some physiological and psychological benefits of showing up in church. For example, at Johns Hopkins University, they documented that cardiovascular diseases were reduced significantly in early old age by people who had been engaged in a lifetime of regular church attendance.
Other researchers have demonstrated in a number of studies that blood pressure is reduced significantly by regular church attendance. This reduction in blood pressures translates into a reduction in mortality. People live longer when they consistently go to church.
What is the bottom line? Church attendance is not only good for our souls; it is good for our bodies, hearts, and minds. All of a sudden the scriptural admonitions, like the one found in Hebrews 10, are more powerful than ever before.
Listen to what it says: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
It is so wonderful to know that God’s Word is so relevant that the old command that we show up in church as often as we can is not only an opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with God, but it helps us in our personal lives as well.
So how do we apply that? I think we make church attendance a priority for our own spiritual life. We encourage our children and family members to take full advantage of the opportunities church attendance provides. And then we support the church financially so it can give life to other people. You see, the local church is more than a building on a corner. It is a place the Spirit of God uses to promote physical, spiritual, social, and emotional health. That place with the steeple on the corner? Don’t just look at it as a place to worship God; look at it as a place that gives you life. This is Larry Mercer for the Moody Broadcasting Network.
The Personal Impact of Faith: The Therapy of Prayer
I remember as a child hearing some very simple expressions of faith toward God like “Now I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, pray the Lord my soul to take.” And I even heard the phrase: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we must all be fed. Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.”
Those simple prayers reflected the heart and passions of a lot of people at a very important stage in their lives. But does prayer really make a difference? Is praying just an exercise in futility without a meaningful impact? Better yet. Does any dimension of our faith change our personal experience in a measurable way? This commentary series will deal with four different spiritual disciplines and raise a very simple question: what earthly difference can practicing spiritual disciplines make in the individual life of the believer?
Let me explain what I mean. Better yet. Let me illustrate what I mean.
A number of years ago, a very special experiment was conducted by Dr. Robert Byrd at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School. He wanted to study the impact of payer on the outcomes of cardiac surgery. Very simply stated, there were two sets of patients: those who were being prayed for, and those who were not being prayer for. None of the patients knew they were being prayed for, none of the attending doctors and nurses knew who was being prayed for and who was not, and those praying had no personal contact with the patients before or during the experiment. What is significant in the outcomes were very noticeable. Those prayed for had noticeably fewer post-operative congestive heart failures, fewer cardiopulmonary arrests, less pneumonia, and less need for antibiotics. To date, this study has not been replicated, but that study (along with others that are noted in the printed text of the commentary) illustrates a very simple reality: prayer does make a difference.
It takes to a new level of significance a passage of Scripture like 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray without ceasing?.?”
Does prayer make a difference? If you believe it does then I want to issue a challenge. What if every child in your family – better yet every child in your church – had an adult that was calling his or her name every day in prayer? What if we were saying to God, “God, we care so much about these children that we want to lift them up before You in prayer?”
One spiritual leader said, “Prayer is the tender nerve that moves the heart of God.” I believe prayer is also His gift to us to help our nerves function properly. This is Larry Mercer for the Moody Broadcasting Network.
 http://www.heritage.org/Research/Religion/BG1064.cfm#57#57.  Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences on a study conducted in North Carolina by Duke University. Findings: Depressed patients with higher intrinsic religiosity scores had 70% more rapid remissions than patients with lower scores. In this study, greater intrinsic religiosity independently predicted shorter time to remission. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report in which religiosity has been examined as a predictor of outcome of depressive disorder. Findings: Persons who “prayed or studied the Bible at least several times/week” were 58% less likely than others to have alcoholism in past 6 months (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.22-0.78, p<.01 after controlling for age, sex, race, SES, and health status); no difference was found for life-time rates. Those who “attended religious services weekly or more” were 71% less likely to have alcoholism in past 6 months. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/pastreports.html#attendance.
Dr. Larry Mercer, Senior Vice President of Media and Church Ministries at the Moody Bible Institute, is a graduate of East Carolina University (Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Master’s of Theology in Pastoral Ministry and Doctor of Ministry in Christian Education). He has been a Licensed Childcare Administrator with the Texas Department of Human Services since 1981, and also serves as an adjunct professor for the Moody Bible Institute Graduate School. Larry has been married more than twenty-five years to his wife Annie. They have four children.
Our subtle senses of color and taste are the result of various combinations of a small number of "primary" senses. There are the sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami of taste, and the red, green, and blue of color. Are there "primary smells" too?
The sense of smell is far more complex than taste, but it too has primary senses. There are a lot more of them: several hundred, according to recent studies. Smell receptor cells come in many varieties, each of which responds to a small group of similar molecules.
When you smell the complex aroma of baking cookies or the subtle tang of seaweed decaying on the beach, your brain is recognizing a very complicated message composed of hundreds of distinct signals. Change just a few of those signals by a tiny amount, and you might realize that the cookies are beginning to burn. What an amazing Creator each of us has.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." The Bible, Ephesians 3