Increase= love x serving others

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

It turns out it is true.

VO2=Q x a-vO2 difference (I’ll explain how this connects with love).

Basically, the more you train aerobically at what is called the VO2 max (your maximum heart rate during exercise, more or less) over time increases your capacity to exercise at that right max. How? Well, it is what Adolf Eugen Fick equation above tells us. As either Q (Stroke volume x heart rate) or a-vO2 difference (oxygen extraction) improves, you can exercise harder for longer.

What studies have discovered is that for those who have an active lifestyle, both heart size and heart volume increase due to the work demand.

What is also fascinating is that just a couple weeks after you stop training, the heart returns to the size it was before training.

All this made me think about the spiritual practices in my life and living a life of love.

If you are anything like me, you have moments when you feel God’s love emanating through and other days when you are sour. It is like the classic sign on an administrative assistant’s desk, “Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.” eeeeekkkkkk!

What I have found is that when I am accepting and engaging with God’s love—God’s love is pumping through my veins—I feel stronger and a greater capacity to love others in my life. You could relate this to our Q (stroke volume x heart rate) in our equation above.

Again, ever do a serve event (community projects, soup kitchens, etc.) or a missions trip and feel that as you served and worked, there was an increase of love in your life? You return home and feel as though you are going to change your life, start a revolution, feed every hungry person in the world! This happening is much like our a-vO2 difference (oxygen extraction) also in the equation above.

When I am engaging God’s love for me and begin to live that out by serving others, it increases my capacity to keep serving others and maintain a life that lives in God’s love. It turns out Fick’s equation deals with more than just exercise.

As we engage in receiving God’s love and showing that same love to others, just like as in the physical body, our spiritual heart—our capacity to love others, ourselves, and God—begins to grow. That is why missions trips have the effect they do. We end up becoming like the Grinch encountering little Cindy-Loo Who and having our heart grow!

Just as the physical body after only a few weeks of not living in God’s love and showing that love forward, our heart begins to shrink. It returns to the size to which it once was. We become like the church from Ephesus in Revelations 2

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.

Re 2:2–4

God sees the work and perseverance. God knows what you have endured for his sake. He also knows when we have forgotten part of the equation. Yes, we must love others, but first and foremost, we must love God. For it is in God that all other love flows. After all, as John tells us,

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 Jn 4:8

Or as Jesus stated

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’

Mk 12:30–31

The love for our neighbour flows out of the love we have for God, and a love for God must manifest its self as a love for others. There is no separating the two.

If we want to be more spiritually fit, it is not only about serving others, and it is not only loving God and receiving that love in return. It is not just focusing on our social justice projects, just as it is not only finding ourselves in the deep-end of worshiping God.

We must love and serve both God and people consistently in the steady rhythm of our lives. It is only when this becomes our normal that we will begin to see dramatic changes in our hearts.

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Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

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Living in Exhale

The physical body is a marvel. We have limbs, cells, plasma, ventricles all working together intricately. It truly is amazing.

Throughout the Scriptures, the biblical writers use the body continually as an analogy to describe our spiritual lives. The most popular being the Apostle Paul’s admonition for the church in Corinth to be united and work together just as a body does, in fact, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Recently I was doing some learning about the human body when I learned something new, which, when it comes to biology, isn’t hard for me to come by. Regarding breathing,

Expiration occurs passively during normal, quiet breathing, requiring no assistance from muscle action.

As one of my friends stated, “This is why it’s so creepy when someone dies—they breathe out.”

What I find very interesting is that when you exercise your body, no-longer is the expiration of air passive, but is active. What is literally effortless during ordinary moments suddenly requires abdominals, internal obliques, serratus posterior, and internal intercostals, which are pulling the rib change down to force the air out.

As I recall how the Scriptures use the body as a metaphor for our spiritual lives, I couldn’t help but think of my patterns of exhaling. I reflected on taking a breather and the differences between the normal pace of my life and the exercise times.

When my spiritual life is in exercise phase I have regular prayer times and spontaneous moments, I’m in the Scriptures, I’m studying, I’m dreaming of what’s next, and I’m diving into relationships in accountable community. I’m working hard. I can feel the growth. The blood is pumping! I can feel the faith sweats of risk and trust. I’m locked in. Within the midst of this pace Sabbath—rest—exhale is hard.

Just as my physical body needs to work, using developed muscles to push the air out, I need spiritual disciplines to force me to exhale. 

It could be easy to buy-in to the idea of a slow pace—no pushing, strive, working hard on our spiritual life. The problem is you never grow. Just as you can’t get stronger, increase lung capacity or stroke volume by sitting on the couch, so it is the same in our spiritual lives.

When I’m at a normal pace, Sabbath is natural. The exhale is effortless. It requires no effort. After all, I’m not pushing, dreaming, falling into regular relationship building with God and others. I sit and get spiritually unfit.

God has not made me to be spiritually unfit. Nor has he made you that way either. 

We were made to be strong and fit. This is the struggle. 

Work too hard; you can have a heart attack. Don’t work at all; you can have a heart attack. We need spiritual disciplines. Bill Hull tells the importance of spiritual disciplines,

Spiritual disciplines are tools that prepare us to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and as it needs to be done.

Hull also points out to us that this isn’t about it always being “go” time. There is a balance within the work.

Jesus practices the disciplines in a healthy and balanced way. We don’t see him have any angst about them. He simply did what met the need of the moment. Some were staples in his spiritual diet, while he only used others on special occasions.

There are times when we need to work those spiritual muscles. Then there are times when we need to stop and take an effortless breath.

Living in the exhale isn’t real life, but neither is always having to work for it.

Let’s take a moment and breathe.

Now, let’s go work for the kingdom knowing that soon we must stop, let our spiritual body rest, and take some effortless breaths.

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The Illusion of Connection

When’s the last time you had a deep and honest conversation? I don’t mean a discussion about the existential, political, or decisions made in life. I also don’t mean an email, blog, or text message. 

When is the last time you had a meaningful conversation where you explored the depths of your heart? One where you wrestled with your past, hoped for the future, sorted through your brokenness?

I can honestly say, It’s been a long time. Yes, conversations with my wife from time to time when we are not working, cleaning, parenting. Unfortunately, even deep discussions with a spouse aren’t givens.

We create giant social circles. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TicToc, Reddit, and the list goes on with different platforms, all creating little communities. Groups in Facebook that provide support and connection. Social media has become a place where we can emotionally vomit (I don’t mean this negatively) and feel like just maybe someone is listening. We enter text conversation with the picture to whom we are talking to in our minds as we stare at screens with green and blue text bubbles.

These mediums are not wrong in themselves. All of these platforms can create pseudo-micro communities and allow us to connect with people we never dreamed of or at least a neighbour or long lost high school friend. 

However, we must not forsake a real conversation with a real person, where we can hear the inflection in their voice, and they can see the joy/pain/triumph/sorrow in our eyes. Jonathan Grant writes, 

…it raises the question of whether social media is stimulating genuine relationships or just simulating them. Are we sharing our lives with others, or are we just broadcasting them? Are we learning the rhythms of intimacy, or are we too busy pleasing the adoring crowd?

I fear it is the latter, yet we delude ourselves in believing the former. Perhaps we are innately aware of this delusion, and that’s why we are still such lonely people. The illusion of connection can be a devastating ailment. It is one that I fear has captured our current planet.

If connection is food, then Socials, text, and email are potato chips. Chips (as we like to call them in Canada) are delicious and are of the more healthy of the junk foods, after all, they are made from potatoes and potatoes are vegetables. Though they are delicious, you cannot have a diet of chips. We need actual food. 

We need an actual connection with each other.

When we don’t get it, we search in other places. Russell Brand writes, 

Think of it: the bliss of a hit or a drink or of sex or of gambling or eating, all legitimate drives gone awry, all a reach across the abyss, the separateness of ‘self’, all an attempt to redress this disconnect.

I believe this is why the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering of believers. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in perfect community, so we, created in the image of the triune God, were created for community and connection. Mark Waltz points out,

“To be human is to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to be relational. We are connected, like it or not.”

We need each other. Whether we feel weak or strong, we are in this together. How can we speak to the deep recesses in others’ souls if we never have a conversation and never dare to be vulnerable enough to make a valued connection?

Your socials are fine but don’t be duped and trade for the illusion at the expense of a genuine human connection. It’s hard, but if you’re willing to invest, you’ll find it’s worth it.

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Forget About What You Deserve

Have you ever felt you should be in a different place? I’m not talking country or even an emotional state. What I am speaking about is accomplishments.

You have dreams. You have skills. You were told you were going to be the best—a champ—and take the world by storm. Yet, here you are, what seems like miles away from where you thought you should be.

I wonder if you think we are all going to rise from obscurity because of the day and age we live in. It’s a world where Microsoft and Apple, companies started in garages, revolutionize the world. It’s an age of reality-show fame, where ordinary folks like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood can become big stars. It’s a world where Justin Beiber is discovered on Youtube, and a 6-year-old starts a media empire by reviewing toys.

This world has set us up to think that we all can be “more.”

Are they wrong? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Sure, everyone deserves the opportunity to become great, whatever that means. Yes, you were created with purpose and intention. But no, there is nothing that promises you notoriety or fame. That’s what it means. We want someone to see us. For this, we need to define ourselves by who Christ says we are. For that topic, I’ll point you to my book.

The one thing you deserve, no matter who you are, is to work hard.

Not everyone is going to see your potential, and that’s okay. Everyone isn’t going to be your fan, which you better come to grips with pretty quickly.

Think of Albert Einstein for a moment. This man achieved great success in his field. He won the Noble prize for his law of photo electric effect and came up with arguably the most recognizable equation in theoretical physics, E=MC2. However, It is hindsight. Though he was a good student, he was the only one from his section of the graduating class not offered a job. He could have given up, but instead, he got a job with the Swiss patent office and continued to work hard.

Think of Moses. The man was raised to achieve greatness, yet it was squandered in a fit of righteous indignation. I wonder if while tending his Midianite flock if he was ever down on himself. I’m sure we wouldn’t look at a murdering shepherd and think, “Wow, there’s a revolutionary leader.”

Think also of Jesus’ disciple Peter? This is a man with chronic foot-in-mouth, who’s only moments of bravery was exercised when he was in a crowd, and who appeared to follow the crowd. We certainly wouldn’t have pegged him as the Christian revolutionary that he was.

More important than whether others see your potential or not is that you are the type of person who once that potential is seen, is worthy of the praise.

We need to become people of humility and love. We need to be ones who are quick to praise and slow to criticize. We need to be willing to see and lift up the potential of others and not be scared of being overshadowed.

Whether you achieve your goals, become successful, or miss the mark on it all, it is not the real prize. The real prize is the adventure you get to take while working hard and trying your best. It is the experiences you get to have along the way. It is about the people and the God you get to grow in a relationship with as you struggle and stretch alone this life.

You only have one. Don’t waste it in a sea of misery thinking you should be somewhere else than you are. Take a lesson from Einstein, work hard where you’re at. Take a lesson from Moses; be willing to go when you are called. Take a lesson from Peter and seize your opportunities when they are given.

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