A new european study shows benefit of religiousness on health

Investigators at the University of Southern Denmark* analyzed data from a longitudinal study of 14,255 persons ages 50+ who participated in Wave 1 and at least one more wave (Wave 2, 4, and/or 5) of the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE).

The study was conducted from 2004-2005 (Wave 1) to 2013 (Wave 5). European countries were categorized into three groups: Northern Europe (Denmark and Sweden), Southern Europe (Italy and Spain), and Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands). Also assessed were marital and employment status.

Three measures of religiosity were administered in Wave 1 to the 71% who indicated they belonged to a religion (n=10,151):

  • Thinking about the present, about how often do you pray?” (with responses dichotomized into praying [65.4%] vs. not praying);

  • Have you been educated religiously by your parents?” (yes [74.0%] vs. no);

  • and “Have you done any of these activities in the last month?” (of the 7 options presented, one was « Taken part in a religious organization »

     

    Religiousness was defined as :

  • (1) religious (praying, taking part in a religious organization, and being religiously educated) (n=900, 8.9%),

  • (2) less religious (praying, but without taking part in a religious organization or being religiously educated) (n=823, 8.1%),

  • and (3) non-religious (neither praying nor taking part in a religious activities nor being religiously educated) (n=1,674, 16.5%).

    Health outcomes assessed were functional limitations in terms of activities of daily living (ADL), self rated health (SRH), long-term health problems, and depressive symptoms.

Results: Praying (Wave 1) was associated with fewer ADL limitations, better SRH, and fewer long-term health problems in Wave 4, but higher odds of depression in Wave 5. Participation in a religious organization was associated with fewer functional limitations, fewer depressive symptoms, and better SRH. Being religiously educated was associated with better SRH and fewer long-term health problems. Those who were religious (positive on all three religious measures) were less likely to have activity limitations and less likely to experience depressive symptoms compared with everyone else. When religious persons were compared to less religious individuals (praying only), the former had better SRH and fewer depressive symptoms. When less religious individuals were compared to the non-religious, the former were more likely to have depressive symptoms, but were less likely to have long-term health problems.

Researchers concluded: “Our findings suggest two types of religiousness: 1. Restful religiousness (praying, taking part in a religious organization, and being religiously educated), which is associated with good health, and 2. Crisis religiousness (praying without other religious activities) which is associated with poor health.”

Comment: These are interesting findings coming from secular Europe. The size of the sample, longitudinal nature, and sophistication of the data analysis all add to the credibility of these findings. The fact that “crisis praying” was associated with more depressive symptoms is also an improtant finding, suggesting that prayer may actually be a marker for psychological distress not a cause for it (i.e., psychological distress leading to more prayer, not vice versa). Obviously, it is better for your health to believe on a daily basis than only in a time of crisis.

*Ahrenfeldt, L. J., Möller, S., Andersen-Ranberg, K., Vitved, A. R., Lindahl-Jacobsen, R., & Hvidt, N. C. (2017). Religiousness and health in Europe. European Journal of Epidemiology.

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Changes in Mental Health Follows Christian Conversion in China

Researchers from the department of psychological sciences at the University of Hong Kong conducted a 3-year prospective study of 455 Chinese college students (average age 24 years, 59% women) to examine the effects of Christian conversion on psychological well-being (operationalized as depressed mood, anxiety, and stress level).

During the 3-year follow-up from 2009- 2010 (T1) to 2012-2013 (T2), six waves of the survey were conducted during which 46 reported being a Christian at T2 who had not reported being a Christian on the previous two waves (described as “converts”). In addition, 92 participants were selected as the “non-convert” group based on responses during all six waves of the study indicating they were not Christian. In addition,92 Christian participants were chosen who indicated they were Christian on all six waves (continuous Christians). The three groups were matched on gender, age, education, and household income. Emotional symptoms were compared between the three groups, and sessed by depressed mood, anxiety and stress using the 21-item Depression Anxiety Stress Scale.

Results: When examining predictors of religious conversion, few psychological characteristics (personality, social axioms, personal values, psychological symptoms) distinguished converts from nonconverts; in fact, only one characteristic -- believing that there is only one true religion -- was predictive of Christian conversion. With regard to the consequences of religious conversion, analyzing the data using mixed-design repeated-measure ANOVAs, all three indicators of poor psychological well-being decreased during the three-year follow-up more so among Christian converts than in either non-converts or continuous Christians. For depression the interaction term was marginally significant, whereas the interaction was significant for anxiety and especially for perceived stress level.

Researchers concluded that the findings were consistent with other researchers’ observation that religious conversion “predicted subsequent improvement in intrapsychic functioning such as life satisfaction, self-esteem, and vitality,” and that their own findings “may also account for the often-observed difference between religious people and the nonreligious on well-being measures.”

To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effects of Christian conversion on mental health over time in a largely atheistic country such as China. It is also interesting that Christian converts experienced improvements in mental health that exceeded those in long-term Christians (although previous benefits may already have stabilized in that group prior to follow-up).

Hui, C. H., Cheung, S. H., Lam, J., Lau, E. Y. Y., Yuliawati, L., & Cheung, S. F. (2017). In search of the psychological antecedents and consequences of Christian conversion: A three-year prospective study. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(2):220-230

 

Women who attend religious services less likely to commit suicide, study says.

 

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from a prospective study of 89,708 women aged 30-55 years (98% white) participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, examining predictors of completed suicide during the 14-year follow-up.

Religious service attendance was assessed in 1992 and 1996 with the question “How often do you go to religious meetings or services?” (never, almost never, less than once per month, 1-3 times per month, once a week, or more than once a week).

Death by suicide were documented using state mortality files, the US National Death Index, and reports from next of kin, using the standard definition contained in the 8th version of the International Classifiaction of Disease (ICD-8).

Multiple covariates possibly related to suicide were assessed and controlled for including age, employment status, family history of alcoholism, BMI, physical activity level, caffeine intake, alcohol intake, smoking status, depressive symptoms, history of chronic medical illness, living situation, social integration (including marital status, other group participation, number of close friends, number of close relatives, number of close friends seen at least once per month, number of close relatives seen at least once per month), and religious service attendance in 1992.

The primary predictor was religious service attendance in 1996. To ensure that depressive symptoms or chronic health problems at baseline were not responsible for low religious attendance (reverse causation), women who were depressed or used antidepressant medications or had a history of cancer or other cardiovascular condition in 1996 were excluded from the analysis. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to analyze the data, and mediation analysis was used to examine factors that might help to explain the relationship (depressive symptoms, alcohol intake, social integration). In addition sensitivity analysis was used to assess the robustness of the results.

Results: Women who attended religious services at least once per week were 84% less likely to commit suicide than women who never attended services (hazard ratio=0.16, 95% CI=0.06-0.46), with more than a five-fold reduction in incidence rate from 7 per 100,000 person-years to only 1 per 100,000 person-years. Results were similar when excluding women who were depressed or had chronic illness at baseline in 1996. Effects were particularly strong among Catholic women (HR = 0.05, 95% CI = 0.006-0.48).

Adjustments for age, lifestyle, demographic, and religious service attendance in 1992, as well as further adjustment for social integration in 1992, could not explain the effect. Sensitivity analysis indicated that unmeasured confounders would have to both increase the likelihood of religious service attendance and decreased the likelihood of suicide by 12- fold above and beyond the measured confounders to explain the effect (highly unlikely).

VanderWeele TJ, Li S, Tsai AC, Kawachi I (2016). Association between religious service attendance and lower suicide rates among US women. JAMA psychiatry (formerly Archives of General Psychiatry), June 29.

Comment: The quality of this study (large sample size and long follow-up) and of the statistical methods used to analyze the data (careful control for confounding, elimination of possible reverse causation, sensitivity analysis) make it a seminal one in the study of religion and suicide. Given the CDC’s recent announcement of an alarming 60% increase in suicide rate between 1999 and 2014 among white women in the US, these results are relevant to public health.

Koenig HG. Association of religious involvement and suicide. JAMA Psychiatry, June 29, 2016

French Doctor and Charismatic Believer Cites Powerful Medical Evidence That Something Happens When You Pray

One of the basic beliefs of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that God heals today. If you've been a believer very long, you know this is true because you've experienced it or seen it, and you know the Bible teaches it.

Most Spirit-led believers accept this by faith. Yet, here is exciting news: There are actual medical studies that back what we believe. These studies are not widely known. But, they have been put together in a remarkable new book by a French doctor named Max Fleury called The Faith Link.

Dr. Fleury is a medical doctor with a private practice. He has been a Charismatic believer for about 30 years and previously served in a pastoral role. Dr. Fleury, who speaks English fluently, also has been a medical journalist, appearing frequently on television.

Dr. Fleury lays out the case that there is scientific evidence that things happen in the brain when people pray, or are prayed for. Much of this is discovered with the new technology that is able to monitor changes in the brain or in other parts of the body.

He shows how science often backs up the Bible, most times citing the specific studies conducted by secular institutions and often by people who are not believers.

There is a demonstrable correlation between faith and healing. This teaching relies on a unique reference combining theological sources with clinical studies.

There is historical context along with existing scientific evidence, and solid evidence, of how to live your life in a healthy manner.

Eighteen months ago, I had the privilege of visiting Dr. Fleury at his home in Orleans, France. We sat and talked about these studies, which he said he was putting into a book in French. I got so excited that one thing led to another and the book was recently published in English by Charisma House.

If I was excited when I first heard about the book, I was even more excited when I read it because Dr. Fleury is laying out the case for God's healing power today. I believe any ministry that is involved in prayer for the sick, or anyone who believes in prayer for the sick needs to read this important book. It will bolster your faith yet it shows that we do not have to accept what we believe by blind faith.

The global fitness and health industry generates more than $75 billion in revenue annually. The Bible teaches that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and you secure your trust in God for health and healing. This sums up Dr. Fleury's book. He says that there is a direct connection between your health and your faith.

Recently, I interviewed Dr. Fleury by telephone and did a podcast for The Strang Report in which we talked about these issues. You can listen to part one by clickinghere. (I encourage you to subscribe to The Strang Report podcast on the Charisma Podcast Network).  

In The Faith Link, Dr. Fleury makes these points:

  • Biblical Christianity is one of the best means of remaining in good health both physically and emotionally.

  • He believes that faith healing is proven by medical science.

  • He lays out evidence that things happen in the brain when you pray, even when you pray in tongues.

  • When attacked by secularists, he says that there is scientific evidence that is absolutely amazing, although it is not well known. Most of the studies are not well known outside of a small percentage of the medical profession.

  • He says that medical associations have even suggested that doctors should incorporate the use of prayer in their treatment of some patients.

  • Medical studies say that spirituality is good for the patient both in an intellectual and spiritual basis.

Dr. Fleury also explores the importance of fasting, prayer, reading the Scriptures, and actively participating in a faith community.

He talks about how Christianity also helps people to have good health to start with. He gives a lot of tips about good health including fasting which will be another subject in an issue of The Strang Report.

He also lays out principles of good health. He talks about Christianity and intimacy with God in a very interesting and winsome way.

I believe God wants us to be well and be in good health even as our souls are well (3 John 1:2, MEV). I have benefited from the things I've learned from the various health authors we've published over the years. My personal interest in health is part to the reason why we publish books by Dr. Don Colbert and others over the years under the Siloam imprint.

I sincerely believe you will benefit from this book. I encourage you to share this message on social media and to forward to others who you know are interested in health, including those who may be skeptical about whether healing is for today.

The book is available where Christian books are sold. But, to make it easy to respond to what you're reading here, we have prepared a special landing page with extra information and the opportunity to buy the book online from several retailers. To buy this book, click here.

Rarely have I believed in one of the books we've published as much as this one. That's why I am giving this review and my personal endorsement. It is also why I will write a second newsletter about this book next week.

Soon we'll begin putting some of Dr. Fleury's information on healing and healthy living on our health website at Charismamag.com.

Steve Strang is the founder of Charisma and CEO of Charisma Media. Follow him onTwitter or Facebook.

Religious Involvement May Influence Telomere Length of Chromosomes

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina and Glendale Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, surveyed 251 stressed caregivers of family members with severe dementia or other disabling neurological or medical illnesses. The purpose was to assess level of religious involvement and, for the first time, examine the relationship with telomere length (TL).

Telomeres are located at the ends of the chromosomes, and shorten each time the cell divides. The telomere has become increasingly known as the cell’s “biological clock” predicting its lifespan. In brief, psychological and social stress increase inflammation in the body, which speeds the rate of telomere shortening. When telomeres shorten to a critical length, cells can no longer divide without affecting genomic stability, resulting in organ degeneration and death.

If religious involvement, which lowers caregiver stress, were linked to TL, then this would provide a biological mechanism to explain why religious people live longer.

In the present study, religious involvement was measured using a 41-item scale assessing religious attendance, private religious activity, intrnsic religiosity, religious commitment, religious support, and religious coping. Depressive symptoms, caregiver stress, perceived stress, and both caregiver and cared-for person physical health were assessed using standard measures.

TL in blood leukocytes was measured at Elizabeth Blackburn’s lab, University of California, San Francisco (Blackburn won the Nobel prize in Medicine in 2008 for work in this area).

Results: Analyses revealed a U-shaped relationship between religiosity and TL. among the 90% of caregivers who were at least somewhat religious, religiosity was significantly and positively related to TL. Researchers concluded that, “While nonreligious caregivers have relatively long telomeres, we found a positive relationship between religiosity and TL among those who are at least somewhat religious.”

This is the first study to demonstrate a relationship between religious involvement and telomere length. Given that the vast majority of U.S. family caregivers of those with advanced dementia or other severe disabilities are “at least somewhat religious, the present results are relevant to most of this population. Further research (especially prospective studies) are needed to replicate this finding and determine if the relationship is causal.

Koenig HG, Nelson B, Shaw SF, Saxena S, Cohen HJ (2016). Religious involvement and telomere length in women family caregivers. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease 204(1):36-42

WORLD PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION POSITION STATEMENT ON SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION IN PSYCHIATRY

WPA Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry The World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have worked hard to assure that comprehensive mental health promotion and care are scientifically based and, at the same time, compassionate and culturally sensitive. In recent decades, there has been increasing public and academic awareness of the relevance of spirituality and religion to health issues. Systematic reviews of the academic literature have identified more than 3,000 empirical studies investigating the relationship between religion/spirituality and health.

          In the field of mental disorders, it has been shown that religion/spirituality have significant implications for prevalence (especially depressive and substance use disorders), diagnosis (e.g., differentiation between spiritual experiences and mental disorders), treatment (e.g., help seeking behavior, compliance, mindfulness, complementary therapies), outcomes (e.g., recovering and suicide) and prevention, as well as for quality of life and wellbeing. The WHO has now included religion/spirituality as a dimension of quality of life. Although there is evidence to show that religion/spirituality are usually associated with better health outcomes, they may also cause harm (e.g., treatment refusal, intolerance, negative religious coping, etc.). Surveys have shown that religion/spirituality values, beliefs and practices remain relevant to most of the world population and that patients would like to have their religion/spirituality concerns addressed in healthcare.

          Psychiatrists need to take into account all factors impacting on mental health. Evidence shows that religion/spirituality should be included among these, irrespective of psychiatrists’ spiritual, religious or philosophical orientation. However, few medical schools or specialist curricula provide any formal training for psychiatrists to learn about the evidence available, or how to properly address religion/spirituality in research and clinical practice. In order to fill this gap, the WPA and several national psychiatric associations (e.g., Brazil, India, South Africa, UK, and USA) have created sections on religion/spirituality. WPA has included “religion and spirituality” as a part of the “Core Training Curriculum for Psychiatry”.

          Both terms, religion and spirituality, lack a universally agreed definition. Definitions of spirituality usually refer to a dimension of human experience related to the transcendent, the sacred, or to ultimate reality. Spirituality is closely related to values, meaning and purpose in life. Spirituality may develop individually or in communities and traditions. Religion is often seen as the institutional aspect of spirituality, usually defined more in terms of systems of beliefs and practices related to the sacred or divine, as held by a community or social group. Regardless of precise definitions, spirituality and religion are concerned with the core beliefs, values and experiences of human beings. A consideration of their relevance to the origins, understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders and the patient’s attitude toward illness should therefore be central to clinical and academic psychiatry. Spiritual and religious considerations also have important ethical implications for the clinical practice of psychiatry. In particular, the WPA proposes that:

1.     A tactful consideration of patients’ religious beliefs and practices as well as their spirituality should routinely be considered and will sometimes be an essential component of psychiatric history taking.

2.     An understanding of religion and spirituality and their relationship to the diagnosis, etiology and treatment of psychiatric disorders should be considered as essential components of both psychiatric training and continuing professional development.

3.     There is a need for more research on both religion and spirituality in psychiatry, especially on their clinical applications. These studies should cover a wide diversity of cultural and geographical backgrounds.

4.     The approach to religion and spirituality should be person-centered. Psychiatrists should not use their professional position for proselytizing for spiritual or secular worldviews. Psychiatrists should be expected always to respect and be sensitive to the spiritual/religious beliefs and practices of their patients, and of the families and carers of their patients.

5.     Psychiatrists, whatever their personal beliefs, should be willing to work with leaders/members of faith communities, chaplains and pastoral workers, and others in the community, in support of the well-being of their patients, and should encourage their multi-disciplinary colleagues to do likewise.

6.     Psychiatrists should demonstrate awareness, respect and sensitivity to the important part that spirituality and religion play for many staff and volunteers in forming a vocation to work in the field of mental health care.

7.     Psychiatrists should be knowledgeable concerning the potential for both benefit and harm of religious, spiritual and secular worldviews and practices and be willing to share this information in a critical but impartial way with the wider community in support of the promotion of health and well-being.

 

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Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don't

If you want to achieve maximum health, here are a few things that you should do: exercise regularly, eat nutritious and minimally processed foods, drop those extra pounds -- and pray. That's right, regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy.

Prayer is the most widespread alternative therapy in America today. Over 85 percent of people confronting a major illness pray, according to a University of Rochester study. That is far higher than taking herbs or pursuing other nontraditional healing modalities. And increasingly the evidence is that prayer works.

It doesn't matter if you pray for yourself or for others, pray to heal an illness or for peace in the world, or simply sit in silence and quiet the mind -- the effects appear to be the same. A wide variety of spiritual practices have been shown to help alleviate the stress levels, which are one of the major risk factors for disease. They also are powerful ways to maintain a positive outlook and successfully weather the trials which come to all of us in life.

The relationship between prayer and health has been the subject of scores of double-blind studies over the past four decades. Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiovascular specialist at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer in the field of mind/ body medicine discovered what he calls "the relaxation response," which occurs during periods of prayer and meditation. At such times, the body's metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.

This physiological state is correlated with slower brain waves, and feelings of control, tranquil alertness and peace of mind. This is significant because Benson estimates that over half of all doctor visits in the U.S. today are prompted by illnesses, like depression, high blood pressure, ulcers and migraine headaches, that are caused at least in part by elevated levels of stress and anxiety.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at theUniversity of Pennsylvania conducted a study of Tibetan Buddhists in meditation and Franciscan nuns in prayer which showed comparable decreased activity in the parts of the brain that are associated with sense of self and spatial orientation in both groups. He also found that prayer and meditation increase levels of dopamine, which is associated with states of well being and joy.

The effects of spiritual practice appear to be more than just the result of enhanced focus and concentration. Ken Pargement of Bowling Green State Universityinstructed one group of people who suffer migraines to meditate 20 minutes each day repeating a spiritual affirmation, such as "God is good. God is peace. God is love." The other group used a nonspiritual mantra: "Grass is green. Sand is soft." The spiritual meditators had fewer headaches and more tolerance of pain than those who had focused on the neutral phrases.

But are the calming effects of spiritual practice temporary, or do they last even after we get up from the meditation cushion or leave a prayer service to reenter our less than serene lives?

In one National Institutes of Health funded study, individuals who prayed daily were shown to be 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those without a regular prayer practice. Research at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients with strong religious beliefs who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than those who were less religious. A 2011 study of inner city youth with asthma by researchers at the University of Cincinnati indicates that those who practiced prayer and meditation experienced fewer and less severe symptoms than those who had not. Other studies show that prayer boosts the immune system and helps to lessen the severity and frequency of a wide range of illnesses.

A recent survey reported in the Journal of Gerontology of 4,000 senior citizens in Durham, NC, found that people who prayed or meditated coped better with illness and lived longer than those who did not.

But the question remains: By what physiological mechanisms does prayer impact our health? Herbert Benson's most recent research suggests that long term daily spiritual practices help to deactivate genes that trigger inflammation and prompt cell death. That the mind can effect the expression of our genes is exciting evidence for how prayer may influence the functioning of the body at the most fundamental level.

But what about praying for others? On the question of whether intercessionary prayer works, the jury is till out. Slightly over half the research done to date suggests that it helps, wile the rest concludes that there is no measurable effect. Critics of these studies say that there is a big difference between praying more or less mechanically and at a distance for a stranger because a researcher has told you to do so and the heartfelt prayers for friends and relatives which arise spontaneously from within.

Prayer, unlike say the behavior of a rat in a maze, cannot be directly observed, and the subtle effects on self and others are difficult to quantify and assess. Moreover, it would be wrong to view prayer as merely a technique to heal illness and promote physical health.

Spiritual practice aims to connect the individual with God or a Higher Power, to open one to the Divinity dwelling within the self, and to make one fully present to life in the here and now. These are not goals that lend themselves to being measured in double blind experiments. The sense of deep peace and radiant well being that spiritual practitioners in different religious traditions report are also not testable by scientific means.

What science can tell us is that people who pray and meditate trend to be statistically more healthy and live longer than those who do not. Whether these boons are merely unintended side effects of still deeper spiritual benefits remains a matter of faith.

Richard SchiffmanJournalist -   HuffPost Religion -  Mar 19, 2012

WHY RELIGION DESERVES A PLACE IN SECULAR MEDICINE

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics (British), Nigel Biggar from the theological faculty at Oxford University argues that ‘secular medicine’ should not exist, at least in the way that the term ‘secular’ is often used today. Secularity does not necessarily mean a religion-free space (as often interpreted within mainstream medicine), but rather a ‘forum for the negotiation of revial reasonings.’ Biggar explains that religion is not simply ‘irrational.’ As an example, he argues that Christianity offers reasonable views of human beings that bear upon medicine and that such views should be tolerated and heard. These views provide considerable support for a humanist view of human dignity, the importance of social obligation, and a special concern for the weak and vulnerable. 

AbstractAs a science and practice transcending metaphysical and ethical disagreements, ‘secular’ medicine should not exist. ‘Secularity’ should be understood in an Augustinian sense, not a secularist one: not as a space that is universally rational because it is religion-free, but as a forum for the negotiation of rival reasonings. Religion deserves a place here, because it is not simply or uniquely irrational. However, in assuming his rightful place, the religious believer commits himself to eschewing sheer appeals to religious authorities, and to adopting reasonable means of persuasion. This can come quite naturally. For example, Christianity (theo)logically obliges liberal manners in negotiating ethical controversies in medicine. It also offers reasoned views of human being and ethics that bear upon medicine and are not universally held—for example, a humanist view of human dignity, the bounding of individual autonomy by social obligation, and a special concern for the weak.

Biggar N (2015). Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine. Journal of Medical Ethics (British Medical Journal) 41:229-233

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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HEALING (2)

Psalm 107

 Many expositors are of opinion that this Psalm was written to celebrate the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile. But the Psalm is more universal in scope as it describes various incidents of human life. It tells of the perils which befall men, and the goodness of God in delivering them, and calls upon all who have experienced His care and protection gratefully to acknowledge them; and it is perfectly general in its character. The four or five groups, or pictures, are so many samples taken from the broad and varied record of human experience. But, whatever may have been the circumstances under which the Psalm was written, or the particular occasion for which it was intended, there can be no doubt as to the great lesson which it inculcates. It teaches us not only that God's Providence watches over men, but that His ear is open to their prayer. It teaches us that prayer may be put up for temporal deliverance, and that such prayer is answered. It teaches us that it is right to acknowledge with thanksgiving such answers to our petitions.

With regards to sickness (VV.17-22), It is here set forth—

1. In its cause. "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities are afflicted" (V.17, KJV). John Perowne's translation is better: "Foolish men, because of the way of their transgression and because of their iniquities, bring affliction upon themselves." The chief ideas here are two:

(1) Wickedness is folly. The transgressor is a "fool." The foolishness is not intellectual, but moral. The wicked are "fools" because of the moral infatuation of their conduct; they despise counsel; they are heedless of warning; they betray their own interests; they will only be brought to reason by chastisement.

(2) Wickedness leads to sickness. The Psalmist expressively indicates that the suffering was self-produced; the sufferers had brought it upon themselves. Many physical afflictions are the direct result of sin. Gluttony and drunkenness lead to untold sickness and suffering. All suffering results from sin. Abolish moral evil, and physical evil would soon be utterly unknown.

2. In its effect. "Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat, and they draw near unto the gates of death" (V.18, KJV). The Psalmist describes the sufferer as loathing food, turning from it in disgust, and drawing near to death. Sheol, the realm of death, he represents as a city which is entered through gates. And the sufferer is solemnly near to those gates; in a little while, unless relief be imparted to him, he will have passed through them for ever.

As for divine healing, the Poet exhibits as—

1. Effected in answer to prayer. "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble" (V.19, KJV)…

2. Effected with supreme ease. "He sent His word and healed them" (V.20, KJV). Perowne detects here "the first glimmering of St. John's doctrine of the agency of the personal Word. The Word by which the heavens were made is seen to be not merely the expression of God's will, but His messenger mediating between Himself and His creatures." At the command of the Lord diseases flee. He has but to utter His word, and the result is achieved. Doubtless many have been "lifted up from the gates of death" by God in answer to prayer. And in all cases of restoration from sickness to health, "whatever means may be used, the healing power comes from God, and is under His control."

3. Demanding grateful acknowledgment. "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness” (V.21, KJV).

CONCLUSION.—This sketch of human disease and Divine healing may fairly be regarded as a parable of sin and salvation.

1. Sin produces an awful deterioration in human nature, and, "when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15, KJV).

2. The Lord is the almighty and all-merciful Saviour from sin.

3. Prayer is the condition of deliverance from sin: "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13, KJV); "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Is. 55:6, KJV).

(Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary)

We may never find ourselves literally wandering in a desert wasteland (Psalm 107:4-9), forced to dwell in a place of deep darkness (Psalm 107:10-16), sick to the point of death (Psalm 107:17-22), caught in a tumultuous storm at sea (Psalm 107:23-32), or confronted by poisonous creatures who threaten our lives (Numbers 21:6), but each of us have faced or will face those times when we need desperately the redeeming hand of God. Psalm 107 gives us insight into how to handle thos times:

- Recognize the situation you are in;

- Cry out to God and tell God what you need;

- Accept the deliverance that God brings;

- Then give thanks to God;

- And in the end, remember that God, not any earthly strength or power, can provide a "habitable" place for us and allow us to live the good life that God has given to us.

But what about others? What about those who wander in the wilderness and are sick to the point of death through no fault of their own? What about those who are battered by the storms of life? Yes, we can cry out to God; yes, we can hope in God's good provisions. But we must never forget that those of us who have ample resources and strength are called to be the arms and legs, the hands and feet, the voice of God in this world. God will redeem from the east and the west, from the north and from the south; but the redemption of God often takes human form.

 (Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages; McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University; Atlanta, GA)

MY PRESCRIPTION FOR THE NEW YEAR

 

Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

A new year is always a good occasion to start again on the right foot. During this very troubled period that generates much stress and anxiety, we can fully take advantage of what is known about the links between mind and body. Science proves that we have more than we think to escape the negative consequences on health of our modern societies. How can we do that? By returning to the simple things for which we have been designed and by removing from our daily life the main toxics for the mind and the body.

Building on the most recent clinical studies in the field, I can make a simple prescription:

-        First, take care of your body, and your mind will say thank you!

o   Eliminate from your dietary intakes, all the proven toxics like refined sugar, alcohol, manufactured food and of course, get rid of tobacco, the N°1 killer;

o   Fast on a regular basis, for example by reducing your calories intake up to 750 a day, for a period of 5 days. Follow this fasting regime four times a year to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer as well as to boost your immune system, lose weight and look younger too, according to Prof Valter Longo, Professor in Gerontology and Biological Science at the USC, and Director of its Longevity Institute http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/diet/why-weve-all-been-doing-the-fast-diet-wrong/;

o   Exercise regularly, 3 times a week, combining endurance and strength activities;

o   Enjoy nature. Several studies show that exercise –even walking- in outdoor natural environments provides all-around health benefits, including stress reduction and improvement in mood and self-esteem. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/

http://spl.stanford.edu/pdfs/2015/Bratman%20LUP.pdf

http://www.naturerocks.org/benefits/nature-rocks-benefits-of-nature.xml;

-        Second, take care of your soul, and your body will say thank you!

o   Stop feeding your mind with worrying news. Stop listening or watching 24-hour news networks and prefer the music of your choice that brings peace and comfort. If you want to stay informed, prefer reading newsmagazines or newspapers.

o   Meditate. Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into Alpha state, which promotes inner peace and healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation, you can enjoy emotional steadiness and personal transformation. It is also proven that meditation enhances empathy. To experience these benefits, regular practice is necessary. Only few minutes every day are necessary. Once imbibed into the daily routine, meditation becomes the best part of your day!

o   Read the Bible every day, to know more about God and His plan for your life. Plunging into these holy teachings will renew your understanding of what’s happening. It will release you from fear and worry and strengthen your faith.

o   You can combine meditation and Bible reading through practicing the Lectio Divina, an ancestral practice that goes back to the Desert Fathers.

Read more about how faith and spirituality can determine your health in my new book, The Faith Link.

 http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Link-Scientific-Belief-Determines/dp/1629986305/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453565982&sr=8-1&keywords=the+faith+link

FEELING DEPRESSED ? GET RELIGION !

The subject hit the headlines in The Washington Post last August 14th issue : If you want happiness, get religion ! The newspaper was reporting the results of the SHARE Study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Religious participation and depression in Europe Studies from United Kingdom and Europe during the past 5 years have reported mixed results concerning on the relationship between religious involvement and depression. The present study is one of the largest and longest prospective studies of religious participation and depressive symptoms from continental Europe. Researchers from the department of public health at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center in the Netherlands, report the results from a 4-year study of 9,068 persons aged 50 or older participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Ten countries participated from Northern Europe (Sweden and Denmark), Southern Europe (Italy and Spain), and Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands). Participants were asked if they engaged in:

(1) voluntary or charity work,

2) educational or training courses,

3) sports, social club, or other kinds of club activities,

4) participation in religious organizations,

(5) participation in political or community organizations

Response options ranged from ‘almost daily’ to ‘less often than monthly.

Depressive symptoms were assessed with the 12-item EURO-D that asked about the usually symptoms associated with depressive disorder. Analyses controlled for education, region, marital status, household size, employment status, financial status, self-rated health, long-term health problems, activities of daily living, and physician-diagnosed illnesses. Fixed-effects models were used to assess whether changes in social participation predicted changes in depressive symptoms during a 4-year follow-up from 2006/2007 to 2010/2011.

Results: Only participation in religious activities (which had a prevalence of only about 10%) predicted a decrease in depressive symptoms over time (B=-0.190, 95% CI= -0.365 to -0.016).

In fact, participation in political or community organizations predicted an increase in depressive symptoms (B=0.222, 95% CI=0.018 to 0.428).

Researchers concluded that “Participation in religious organizations may offer mental health benefits beyond those offered by other forms of social participation.”

Croezen S, Avendano M, Burdorf A, van Lenthe FJ (2015). Social participation and depression in old age: A fixed- effects analysis in 10 European countries. American Journal of Epidemiology 182 (2):168-176.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HEALING ? (1)

"My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body a
nd refreshment to your bones"

Proverbs 3:1-8 (NASB)

This well-known passage of the book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament, talks about the effects of our relation with the Word of God. It clearly says that if we keep His commandments in our hearts, subordonating our own understanding to the Lord, it guarantees us a long and peaceful life. More, it says that fearing  God, that is, respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline and worshipping Him, assures us physical healing and strength ! It is interesting to note that the book of Proverbs has been composed around the IVth century BC, far, far before the scientific demonstration of the benefits one can draw from a true and wilfull submission of his ou her heart and soul to God, through prayer and meditation.
See also Proverbs 4:20.

 

INTRINSIC RELIGIOSITY AND HYPERTENSION

 To examine the relationship between intrinsic religiosity and hypertension, researchers at Loma Linda University analyzed cross-sectional data on 9,581 middle-aged and older North American Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). The mean age of the sample was 61 years; two-thirds were White; two-thirds were female; and 43% had an undergraduate or graduate degree education. One-third of the sample (35%) reported a diagnosis of hypertension. In terms of health behaviors, 56% were vegetarian, 33% were involved in a regular exercise program, and 94% did not currently use alcohol. Church attendance was “often” in 91% of participants. Intrinsic religiosity was assessed using the 3-item subscale of the Duke University Religion Index (DUREL), with response options ranging on a 7-point Likert scale from “not true” (1) to “very true”(7). Hypertension was self-reported. Researchers sought to validate this self-reported diagnosis in a subsample of 495 participants who had their blood pressure (BP) physcially measured; systolic BP was significantly higher in those who self-reported hypertension than in those who did not (p<0.0005); likewise, diastolic BP was significantly higher in those reporting hypertension compared to those who did not (p<0.0005). Perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning were examined as possible mediators. Logistic regression was used to analyze the data. Results: Level of intrinsic religiosity was inversely related to hypertension (B=-0.13, SE 0.03, OR=0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.92, p<0.0001). Only older age, Black race, lower BMI, and eating a vegetarian diet were as strongly related to hypertension as was intrinsic religiosity. Even after controlling for perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning, the inverse relationship between hypertension and intrinsic religiosity persisted (B=-0.09, OR=0.92, p<0.01). Investigators concluded, “This finding is particularly important because it suggests that religiosity and not just lifestyle is related to lower risk of hypertension, a leading cause of death in the USA.”

Charlemagne-Badal SJ, Lee JW (2015). Intrinsic religiosity and hypertension among older North American SeventhDay Adventists. Journal of Religion and Health, pp 1-14, 2 septembre 2015.

http://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-015-0102-x

Comment: Reported here was a robust association independent of diet and other health behaviors and only minimally mediated by perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning. In participants whose BP was actually measured, the average systolic BP of those with self-reported hypertension was only 133.8 and the average diastolic BP was only 75.3 (however, many were taking medication to control their hypertension). Although the present study is cross-sectional and does not allow causal inferences, the inverse association between religiosity and hypertension may be one reason why SDA’s (a very religious group) live on average 4 years longer than Americans in general.

Source :  CROSSROADS... Newsletter of the Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health, Volume 5 Issue 6 December 2015.