Friday, December 16, 2011

A Dog's Life. Not So Bad After All

This, from Reader's Digest:

There are numerous studies that attest to the stress-relieving benefits of pets. In one analysis researchers evaluated the heart health of 240 couples, half of whom owned a pet. Those couples with pets had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure levels when exposed to stressors than the couples who did not have pets. In fact, the pets worked even better at buffering stress than the spouses did.

I have to admit, I didn't see this coming. I do think, however, that this is more about dogs than cats. I can't imagine a cat that didn't raise tension/blood pressure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3 Things You Can Do to Exhale Every Night

Exhaling is an important part of breathing. It's pretty necessary to expel air from your lungs before you inhale oxygen. Breathing (exhale/inhale) is one of life's rhythms that is not often considered, but is crucially necessary.

I've been thinking about the rhythms of life and how we might apply the same principles to our spiritual life. Just as exhaling and inhaling is necessary to sustain life, I wonder if we might not better sustain our own days if we took the time to exhale every night and inhale every morning.

Here are some thoughts I have on exhaling:

1. Breath out the deadly toxins.
Every day we are confronted with the reality of sin. Whether it be our own mistakes, the hurt of relationships, persecution by enemies, or just the consequences of a fallen world; by the time we close our day, our lives are full of deadly toxins. We need to exhale by breathing those out to our Father. Don't take your pain out on your wife or children or friends. Don't bottle it up inside. Take it to God. You can trust that His shoulders are big enough to carry your load for you.

2. Breathe out a sigh of relief.
God has brought you through another day. Whether it was a great one or just ok, God has carried you and sustained you through it. Thank him for that. Be relieved that the sun also rises, and rest well knowing if He carried you through today, He will carry you through tomorrow.

3. Breathe out gratitude.
Did you know that when you laugh you are exhaling? Breathing out joyfully is one of life's greatest experiences. Before you nod off to sleep, let your final thoughts be thanksgiving for the many blessings God has given you. As you close your eyes on another day, search your mind to remember the many places where God intervened on your behalf (sometimes we don't realize it at the time and it isn't until later reflection that we see what He has done for us).

In the morning, you can inhale. But I'll say more about that later.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thankful for the Heart of Calvary

One thing I would like to do better is to end my days being thankful. So tonight, I want to give thanks for the heart of my brothers and sisters at Calvary. It is a blessing to be able to witness so many of my friends who are truly developing the heart of Jesus.

Over the past few years we have seen many wealthy and "important" people walk away from our church, but God has graciously sent people to replace them who may not be blessed financially, but who exhibit a rich love in their relationships with each other and a deep compassion for the world around them. After all, when he saw the widow give her two mites at the temple, Jesus reminded his followers that it was not the size of the offering that mattered, but rather it is the heart of the giver.

Over the past few days I have a great opportunity to repeatedly see people exhibiting the heart of a joyful giver.

Today, we had people coming to our building all day (as late as 8pm tonight) to pick up gifts for delivery to children as part of project angel tree.

Someone dropped off a coat today because they wanted to make a contribution to our teen's local warming project (which they are doing for the second year in a row).

I'm privileged to be part of a LIFEgroup which adopts several families every year to provide clothes, gifts, and food for the holidays.

I was approached yesterday after first service by a lady who desired information about getting involved in our monthly supper house ministry.

A recent new attenders at our church has been purchasing books for radio bible class and making them available for free. People are taking them all each week!

I can't remember the last Sunday I've been at Calvary when so many people have expressed love and gratitude to me as did this week.

Our church's children modeled intergenerational ministry as they spent their Sunday School hour having a bingo party with our Keenagers.

I was approached this weekend by two different people who have a heart for connecting people and want to launch new LIFEgroups.

To cap it off, on a day when our church united, despite a concerted effort to divide the congregation, to approve next year's budget; our people gave one of the largest offings of the year* (over $10,000 more than our average giving)!

I could go on. If you want to see more, check out our facebook page to see the rich love being shared there on a regular basis! I am truly thankful to be part of a church full of people with such big hearts!


*this is especially amazing because the second Sunday of the month is almost always one of our lowest offerings of the month.

Please Pray for a Dear Friend and a Great Man

Patrick McGoldrick is perhaps the person who has most influenced me in church ministry. He is someone I deeply respect and love, and from whom I have learned a great deal. I learned more from him in a six month internship than I did in four years of college.

Please pray for him, Dena Stevens McGoldrick, and their children Paige and Parker. Patrick posted this yesterday:

After a few months of strange symptoms, many doctor’s visits and tests, I need to share with you that I have recently been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors are 100% convinced that this is what I have. There is no cure for ALS. ALS is a serious neurological disease that causes muscle weakness and eventually leads to complete deterioration. The speed and path varies from person to person, but the average life expectancy is two years.

Obviously, this is not what I had planned, nor what I would have ever dreamed would happen to me. But there is another side to the story. God is sovereign and in control. Isaiah 6 is a passage that I preached here many years ago and Bob preached it last month. I take that truth that “King Jesus” is seated on His throne as ruler and has authority of my life. He also will give us strength as we go through this journey.

A song that has blessed my soul in this past week is written ultimately by God, through Job and passed down to Matt Redman. That song is “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I want to live that out!!

We love you so much and appreciate you so much. Our lives have been blessed because of you! Thank you for your prayers.

Control the Thing You Can Control

This morning I was reading in Psalm 119. I noticed across the page, I had scribbled some notes a while back so I looked to see what I had written. Psalm 116:10-11 were underlined. They read:

I believed in you, so I said
"I am deeply troubled, LORD"
In my anxiety I cried out to you,
"These people are all liars!"


In the margin, I wrote:

"I cannot control what others do, I can control whether or not I take it to God."

True.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Beatles, Mary, and When Peace Like a River...

This is a repost. But it fits with my sermon for Saturday night, so I thought I'd throw it out there for you:

You tell me... was Paul McCartney a closet fundamentalist?

...or was he at least influenced by Horatio Spafford?

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Let it be, let it be, .....

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Let it be, let it be, .....

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


(truth is, for all my hymnologically impaired friends, McCartney's song has more Biblicity than Spaffords. Do you know the passage?)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 Lists of 3. Simplifying the Process of Spiritual Formation

Captain Jack Sparrow held one of the Pirate Lord's eight pieces of nine. I just get a kick out of that term. Today, I give you five lists of three.

These are five different lists which each seek to describe (not necessarily define) the process of spiritual formation. These lists are not meant to be comprehensive, nor are they solely instructional; but hopefully they provide some opportunity for reflection. Here we go:

1. A Church's Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Teach Biblical Content
  • Encourage Spiritual Disciplines
  • Empower Christlike Mission
2. A Group Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Partnering for growth together
  • Serving the church together
  • Engaging the world together
3. A Personal Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Be a disciple
  • Be invitational
  • Be missional
4. A Progressive Approach to Spiritual Formation:
  • Leave Life (for Christ's)
  • Live Life (of obedience)
  • Give Life (for others)
5. A Progressive Approach to Spiritual Formation (2):
  • Obey
  • Love
  • Bear Fruit

What do you think? What would you add? What would you subtract? What would you change? What needs further clarity?