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5 Scientific Reasons to Attend Church

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Photo by LOFTFLOW/
While church offers obvious spiritual benefits, did you know that studies have found it’s good for your physical and mental health too? Here are a few reasons why.

About two in five Americans report going to worship services on a weekly basis. But church isn’t always the easiest commitment to make on an early Sunday morning. While church offers obvious spiritual benefits, did you know studies have found it’s good for your physical and mental health too? Here are five surprising benefits of attending church.

1. Going to church boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and helps you live longer.

Tyler J. VanderWeele, an epidemiologist with the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted a studyof regular church-goers over two decades with his colleagues. He found that people who attend religious services at least once a week enjoy better blood pressure, healthier cardiovascular, immune and endocrine functions and less coronary artery disease than those who don’t attend at all. In addition, the risk of dying is 20 to 30 percent less in the 10 and a half years after they begin going to church regularly, the study found. “Something about the communal religious experience and participation matters,” as opposed to private spirituality or practice, VanderWeele wrote in USA Today. “Something powerful appears to take place there, and enhances health.”

2. Frequent churchgoers have a larger social circle and with more kinds of support than people who don’t attend.

That’s according to a study of attendees in North Carolina. Strong friendships and social support have a direct correlation with better health, writes T.M. Luhrmann, a Stanford anthropologist who has studied evangelical churches. And the support provided by church can be both emotional and practical. In a New York Times story, Luhrmann describes what happened at a weekly Bible study she attended: “One evening, a young woman in a group I joined began to cry. Her dentist had told her that she needed a $1,500 procedure, and she didn’t have the money,” she writes. “To my amazement, our small group—most of them students—simply covered the cost, by anonymous donation.”

3. People who go to services regularly are less likely to be depressed.

A survey of nearly 100,000 women over 50 who attended religious services found they were 56 percent more likely to have a positive outlook on life and 27 percent less likely to be depressed, according to a study in the Journal of Religion and Health. Eliezer Schnall, the study’s author and an associate professor at Yeshiva University in New York, writes that regular religious practice can help foster a “positive worldview, include calming rituals, and have other psychological and social benefits.” A separate study found regular churchgoers were five times less likely to commit suicide.

4. Teens who regularly attend church do better in school.

Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Researchers at the University of Iowa found that the GPA of teens who attend services on a weekly basis was .144 higher than those who never attended services, according to the study published in Sociological Quarterly. They studied students from seventh grade to seniors in high school.

The study identified several few factors that account for the academic boost, according to LiveScience. Churchgoing teens encounter adults of various ages who serve as role models and are more likely to talk with their friends’ parents. They also strike up friendships with kids who share similar values and are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities. But this only account for about half the effect.

“Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes,” Jennifer Glanville, a University of Iowa sociologist, noted. “That suggests that the act of attending church—the structure and the social aspects associated with it—could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion.”

5. Churchgoers are happier with their lives overall.

One study found that one-third of people who went to church every week and reported having close friends there said they were “extremely satisfied” with their lives, compared with just 19 percent of those who attended but didn’t enjoy the same tight circle. The key is building an intimate cluster of like-minded people, according to Chaeyoon Lim, a sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the study’s author.

“We think it has something to do with the fact that you meet a group of close friends on a regular basis, together as a group and participate in certain activities that are meaningful to the group,” Lim told LiveScience. “At the same time, they share a certain social identity, a sense of belonging to a moral faith community. The sense of belonging seems to be the key to the relationship between church attendance and life satisfaction.” The findings were uniform across Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and Jewish believers who attended regular services.

Bottom line: Church is good for you in a lot of ways. As VanderWeele told the Washington Post, “Service attendance is increasing social support. Through social norms, it’s also decreasing the likelihood of smoking. Perhaps through some of the messages of hope, it’s decreasing depressive symptoms. Perhaps self-discipline, a sense of meaning or purpose in life…”

To the Wife Wishing Her Husband Followed Christ More, Better, or At All

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Dear wife wishing her husband followed Christ more closely, you are not alone. But the answer to the questions you are asking may look quite a bit different than you think.

It was a podcast discussing Minimalism that got my attention.

I have a weakness for these sort of things. I love fresh ideas and challenges, trying new things. Have a new paleo eating plan? I’m game. Want to train for a half-marathon? Why not. Want to talk about getting rid of half your stuff and simplify? I’m listening. 

There is something about trying out new methods, strategies and challenges that I find invigorating. I might not adopt them all for the long term if they don’t fit my priorities, but I’m certainly willing to listen and often game to give it a try, because new things are the spice of life to me.

So I was listening to this podcast on Minimalism and after the guest articulated her perspective, the host asked a question I’m sure many of the listeners were wondering – how do we get our husbands on board?

And the woman’s answer caught me by surprise. In so many words she said – you don’t.

Kind of a shocking thought, no? You simply don’t.

She didn’t leave the listeners there tough. She told of how when she got started with minimalism she didn’t expect her husband to jump on the bandwagon, she just did the best she could with the things in her control. Together she and her husband agreed on a couple spaces in the house that were super important to him – the garage and the master closet. When she began organizing and downsizing he would keep all the things that he wasn’t willing to get rid of in those areas.

He kept his spaces as disorganized as he wanted and she determined to never nag or complain about them (this is key!) as she was free to organize/simplify everything else.

After a couple years her husband began to notice the fruit of her minimalist organization strategies. He noticed the freedom and joy she found in simplicity, how that spilled into the rest of her life as a wife and mom and, over time, he chose to adopt a more minimalist way of life as well.

 Not because of her nagging, but because of her joy.

Over the past few years I have received many questions from readers that boil down to the same thing – a wife very much wishing her husband followed Christ more…better…or at all. It is a beautiful and heartfelt concern many Christian women have. The wisdom shared on the podcast is actually a biblical model and practical answer to that very concern.

In 1 Peter 3:1 we read, “In the same way, wives, submit yourself to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by the way their wives live.”

Won over without a word, simply by the way we live. Wow.

The opening of Peter 3 is referring back to chapter 2 in which he reminds us that we were once sheep led astray but have found righteousness only by His sacrifice. He opens chapter 3, with this simple idea of pointing our husbands toward Christ with our very lives by saying, “In the same way…”

In the same way Christ did.

This is the gospel.

What a holy calling. What a huge responsibility.

So often we are convinced that we can push, pull and coerce our husbands into a closer relationship with Christ. We somehow believe we can manipulate or guilt them there. And it doesn’t work. In the long term it is incredibly destructive to our marriages.

John 13:35 tells us the world will know we are His by our love. Why would this not begin with the person standing right beside us, our husbands?

Your husband will not move closer to Christ because of your criticism or your cynicism. He will see Christ in you, by your love.

This is not always an easy task, I realize. But loving well in difficult times, in moments when we wish our husbands led better or prayed more, read devotions to our family, whatever we have been wishing for, will speak louder than any words we can ever say.

Be committed to your own relationship with Christ. Let your joy and hope, your obedience and repentance, leak out into the rest of your life. Love your husband well right where he is, and trust God to do the rest.

It is our beautiful and brave responsibility, friend, and by His grace we get to keep doing it.

May our husbands, and the world, know Him by our love today.

You Never Know Who Your Kindness Will Encourage Today

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Sometimes, all it takes is the kindness of another person to remind us all that someone cares.

Erin Bennett got that special reminder during her trip to Target on Wednesday.

She shared her touching experience in Facebook post written “to the man in line behind me at Target.”

“To the man in line behind me at the Gainesville Target, who saw that after hitting my grocery budget limit I decided to put back my Pumpkin Spice candle and the makeup I had picked out,

You didn’t know that I always save my stuff for last and usually end up putting it back.

You didn’t know that the two fussy kids I had with me, were only two out of four. 

You didn’t know that I have postpartum depression from the youngest babe and that I use scent as a way to boost my mood. 

You didn’t know that this week has been full of sick kids, parent teacher conferences, emergency dental visits and I was so looking forward to lighting that candle at nap time and just taking a minute to relax. 

Even without knowing that, you saw me.

You saw me as a human, not just the mom in front of you that was distracted and going way too slow. You heard me say that I’d like to put those items back and you said you were getting them. You didn’t take no for an answer. You told me I deserved it when I started to tear up.

You Sir, are the good in the world. You made my day, probably my week, and I WILL pay it forward. Thank you so much for your kind heart and words.”

Erin hopes in sharing her experience, her appreciation will somehow make it back to the man in line behind her at Target. She wants others to see it and know that even the smallest acts of kindness goes a long way.

We all have the power to let someone know that they are SEEN, they matter, and they are cared for. May Erin’s story be an encouragement to us all, to do something kind for someone else today.


LifeWay Study Finds Bible Reading As a Child Leads to More Faithful Adults

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Most churchgoing Protestant parents of young adults say their kids grew up to be Christians.

But half of them don’t actually practice the Christian faith, their parents say.

And the biggest factor predicting their spiritual health as young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly as kids.

Those are among the findings of a new study among Protestant churchgoers about parenting and spirituality from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study was sponsored by LifeWay Kids for use in the book Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith.

For the study, researchers surveyed 2,000 Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers. All attend services at least once a month and have adult children ages 18 to 30.

Researchers wanted to know what parenting practices pay off over the long haul when it comes to spiritual health, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids—and to see their children make that faith their own,” said McConnell. “But they don’t always know how best to make that happen.”

Spiritual disciplines

LifeWay Research took a twofold approach to the study.

First, researchers asked parents about 40 factors that could affect a child’s moral and spiritual development. Among them: whether the child’s parents had been divorced, whether the family prayed or ate meals together, what kind of school the child attended, how often the child went to church or youth group, and even what kind of music the child listened to growing up.

LifeWay Research then asked parents to describe their adult children’s spiritual health, using eight observable factors. Each child received one point if he or she:

  • Identifies as a Christian.
  • Shares his or her faith with unbelievers.
  • Is involved in church.
  • Reads the Bible regularly.
  • Serves in a church.
  • Teaches others at church.
  • Serves in the community.
  • Supports local or foreign missions.

Parents gave observations for a total of 3,472 adult children. Eighty-five percent identify as Christians, according to their parents, giving them at least 1 point on the 8-point spiritual health scale. But only 3 percent had a score of 8, the highest possible. Two-thirds had a score of 2 or less. Half had a score of 0 or 1, meaning they either don’t identify as Christians (11 percent) or they identify as Christians but have none of the other spiritual practices (39 percent).

LifeWay Research then compared the results of all these young adults to find out which factors predict the highest spiritual condition.

The top factor: Bible reading. Twenty-nine percent of the young adults regularly read the Bible while growing up, according to their parents. On average, that group has 12.5 percent higher spiritual health than otherwise comparable individuals who didn’t, LifeWay Research found.

In addition, spiritual health levels are 7.5 percent higher on average for young adults who regularly spent time praying while growing up (28 percent), regularly served in church (33 percent) or listened to primarily Christian music (22 percent) than for comparable individuals who didn’t.

And scores average 6.25 percent higher for young adults who participated in a church mission trip while growing up (27 percent) than for comparable individuals who didn’t.

Doing all five of these practices in childhood could boost a young adult’s spiritual health score 41 percent, putting the young adult above the 90th percentile, said McConnell.

“Practicing your faith—in specific ways—really pays off later in life,” he said.

Nothing Less, said it’s easy for parents to be caught up in the busyness of life—and not to ground their kids in the practice of reading the Bible.

“The key takeaway from the study is a simple yet profound finding that God’s Word truly is what changes lives,” she said.

Researchers identified a few factors that point to lower spiritual health for young adults. Those whose parents say they did not want to go to church as teens (22 percent) score 5 percent lower on spiritual health as young adults. Those whose parents say they were rebellious (16 percent) had scores 3.75 percent lower than others, and those who listened primarily to secular music (58 percent) had scores 2.5 percent lower.

Attending popular church activities such as youth groups and Vacation Bible School predicts spiritual health for young adults—but only when linked to core practices such as reading the Bible and serving, said McConnell. Other activities, such as family meals, did not show up as key predictors in this study.

Parents’ behavior is also related to their adult children’s spiritual health, LifeWay Research found. Young adults had higher spiritual health scores if they grew up with parents who spent time:

  • Reading the Bible several times a week.
  • Taking part in a service project or church mission trip as a family.
  • Sharing their faith with unbelievers.
  • Encouraging teenagers to serve in church.
  • Asking forgiveness when they messed up as parents.
  • Encouraging their children’s unique talents and interests.
  • Taking annual family vacations.
  • Attending churches with teaching that emphasized what the Bible says.
  • Teaching their children to tithe.

All these little things can pay off, said McConnell, by showing kids what practicing your faith looks like.

“In the end, parents hope the light will go on and their children will want to follow God on their own,” he said. “At any age the Holy Spirit can flip the light switch, and these habits can help kids grow in their faith.”

Brandon Heath – Songs in Sign Language

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Artist Spotlight

Brandon Heath has just released a unique group of videos based on his new album Faith Hope Love Repeat.

“A few years ago, I got an email from my buddy Ian. Ian is deaf and he sent me some videos of him interpreting my songs. It inspired me to make my entire brand new record, Faith Hope Love Repeat, available in American Sign Language!” – Brandon Heath

All 12 songs are now available on YouTube as Official American Sign Language Interpretation Videos. Click here to view them all.

10 Ways You Can Make Your Hot Chocolate Even Better

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

It’s that time of year again. The days get shorter, darker and a lot colder which is why many start drinking more hot drinks to keep warm. There is nothing better than a cup of hot chocolate but sometimes you want something a little more exciting. Whether you are a lover of peanut butter, peppermint, cinnamon or Nutella, Here are 10 ways you can spice up your hot chocolate.

Infographic via SheKnows

CHRI & JD Swallow 4th Annual Pajama Drive

November 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in CHRI