Is the average believer today “spiritually impoverished,” and if so, why?  How does God use “ordinary sufferings” to lead us back to utilizing spiritual muscles?  Can simply serving in holistic ministry provide an antidote to our common “diseases of the soul”?  For simple yet profound insights, join me in reading this brief excerpt from a devotional written to Safe Families for Children staff and volunteers by Dr. Monte Pries, SFFC Family Coach Supervisor, Santa Ana, CA .    –Tom Mouw

The more obvious focus of Safe Families is to look at the population of people we seem to most commonly engage with. We reach out to families living on the outer edges of physical, financial, and relational poverty. But poverty as it relates to you and me is most likely not to be physical, but poverty of spirit. Even for us, as born-again Christians, forgiven by the Blood of the Lamb, we are spiritually impoverished by the lack of the experience of God in our lives. We are saved, and yet we are experientially comatose and forgetful of who we are and who God is, and how we are designed to live in His ways, through His power. Isaiah (Isaiah 53:6) speaks of how we have all turned our backs and gone our own way. We are not trained; we are not devoted to living richly in His Spirit and Presence. We rely on ourselves, our own energy. We live in poverty.

Jesus teaches us through the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and elsewhere, how to be rich in Spirit, how to find our way back to His Kingdom from which we have lost connection. Whoever wants to be great must become the servant…The first shall be last and the last shall be first…Blessed are the merciful…Give and it shall be given unto you…It’s more blessed to give than to receive…Give a cup of cold water…Feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit those in prison…Invite to your home for dinner the poor, crippled, and blind who can’t repay you..Wash one another’s feet…Welcome little children…Love your enemies…Bless those who insult you…Pray for those who persecute you…Give away your coat…Go the extra mile…As you do unto the least of these so you’ve done unto me.

We know how we are supposed to be, but “our spirit is willing, and our flesh is weak”. (Matthew 26:41 ) To live the way of the Beatitudes is foreign; we don’t naturally seem to have the right muscles required. We forget God, we forget our dependence on Him for our very existence, and we live in pride and self concerns. But God has a plan, and it’s to “discipline, to train those Whom He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). He leads us, through the ordinary sufferings in life, back to a place of humility. It is in the place of humility that we are best able to adjust our perspectives and see all that He gives as lovingly pointing the way back to Him, pointing the way back to use our spiritual muscle of faith, prayer, and love. His correction and instruction can seem severe, but they need to be to lead us as Prodigal Sons and Daughters back to the blessed realm of our loving Father (Luke 15:11-32). Remember that His training is not designed to deprive us of happiness nearly as much as lead us to bliss and joy.

It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “If you think of this world as a place intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad”.

“This world.. a correction”? a correction of what?…a correction for our pride, our reliance on our own illusion of control, and a correction for our forgetfulness of God.

“This world…a training”?, a training for what?…a training to find the path of gratitude and humility so that we might be rightly aligned with God.

Safe Families for Children is a movement of service, a way of engaging with life in a sacrificial way. Christian service is a Spiritual Discipline, like prayer and fasting, or the reading of His Word, or worship. Spiritual Disciplines are ways to get back in synchrony with God and life. Therefore, what many people experience through serving in Safe Families can be very instrumental in providing the antidote to the diseases of the soul, diseases of ego and obsessions with our own dramas and traumas.

You, who are volunteers or Safe Families staff, have already been inspired enough to devote yourselves to this Spiritual Discipline, you might as well see it as such, and be purposeful in seeing Safe Families as part of your spiritual regiment. As you are mindful of the Spiritual act which you perform through serving in Safe Families, the intensity of the spiritual benefits to you will increase. If we are aware of the Christian Spiritual Discipline of service, then our intensity and consistency of that service grows. If we are not intentional in our spiritual pursuits then we lose benefit. Going back to the parables of the field, and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44,46 ), we have to be aware of the existence of the treasure and then learn how to access it, before we are able to receive the full measure of its value.

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