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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What I learned in Africa… and it’s not what you think.

Most people when they go to a foreign country, especially those that have lesser means then their own, are impacted by the poverty, lack of opportunity, and many times, the hopelessness the local people have of ever pulling themselves out of their situation.

For me, it has always been different.

It is not that the aforementioned doesn’t enter my mind, how could it not. It’s just so often we go on these experiences which have a tremendous impact on us, and while we are on the ground, there is an emotional change in us! It’s deep. It’s powerful. It’s potent. However, the effects often diminish over time. It wanes, and it’s completely normal. We return, and our reality instantly begins to shade our experience. We say we will never forget the feeling, but how can we genuinely help it! Our cultures consumerism slams us in the face everywhere we go.

Heck, you can’t even use the bathroom at most restaurants without some tv screen on the urinal wall flashing advertisements in your face.

I have led a few trips and each time, knowing the “life change” amnesia can set in, I’ve tried to take simple life lessons that are easy to apply. When these lessons can be implemented, though they are simple, they can be revolutionary in the long term.

While I was in Malawi last year, I was talking with my missionary friend Jef when he said something that has changed my life, and those around me’s lives, for the better.

“You realize when you come to Africa that they do things on their own schedule. It is hard at first to get used to it because we are always go go go but….”

And this next little comment changed my life.

“You eventually realize that there isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

WOW. This stuck with me. This lesson did need some help to set in.

Before we get into what came next you need to understand something about me, I’m a high energy, get things done on time, anal, church planter… What that means, I’m not totally sure. What I do know is that Sunday mornings stress me out (I write about this in chapter 9 of my new book Hidden Faces). So often, stressed out of my mind, I can be found storming around making sure everything is perfect as if the seam on the drape facing out is the deciding factor on someone accept Christ…

I needed to hear that lesson Jef taught me.

However, it only sunk in a little. I should say that I had been working on this for nine months, but sometimes we need a few impactful experiences to help expedite the process.

Right before I went, and increasingly after I had severe pain when I found myself in stressful situations. I pushed through. Why? Because weakness is the enemy! About two weeks after I returned from Africa, I started getting tingling in my hip, which turned into a numb spot about the size of a quarter. Then it slowly expanded to a hip that was completely numb with this intense pain that I spoke of earlier. This lasted for about a month until I was bedridden with pain, and small lesions appeared on my back.

I had shingles.

Stressed induced shingles.

I had two months laying in pain (only getting up to do the necessary) to reflect on Jef’s words, my patterns, and where I wanted to go.

“There isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

Tony Stoltzfus, while coaching a pastor, observed,

“Let’s say that the people you lead follow your example instead of what you say – that they imitate the way you live. Say that everyone in your congregation worked your hours, had your stress level, spent the amount of time you do with your wife and kids, and had your exercise and eating habits. If the legacy of your ministry was that your people took on your lifestyle, what would you think of that.”

If I were helping someone in my congregation who happened to have my stress level (due to anal tendencies and a need to get everything done ASAP whether it needed to be or not), I would tell them to relax, breathe, gain perspective, realize you’re not God. I would ask them to look at Jesus. Was he stressed out?

The Gospel of Mark tells us,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 1:35).

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray

The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 14:23).

It seems to me that Jesus took time to relax and refresh his Spirit. It appears Jesus took care of His soul. There were times when He dismissed the crowd, took too long to get to appointments, and went off script and had a meal or a party instead of rushing to His next thing.

For Jesus, as it turns out, most things could wait. Jesus demonstrated for us what the correct life/work balance looks like.

Africa changed my life. It helped me gain perspective. It’s been over a year since I was there, and while I have moments of regression I can honestly say, the cadence of my life is dramatically different.

It’s all thanks to what I learned in Africa…and it’s not what you thought.

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