Saturday, August 27, 2016

REASONS TO STOP COMPLAINING


Have you complained to anyone in the last twenty-four hours? If you did, you are in the majority. In fact research shows that most people on average complain once a minute during a conversation.


What you may not realize is that your brain actually rewires for negativity when you get into a habit of whining. Dr. Travis Bradberry is co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. He talks in his book about how your brain loves efficiency. It doesn’t want to work harder than necessary in the transmission of information along neural pathways. He says,

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.
And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary; especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.
While it’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.
All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.[1]

Yikes! The good thing about your brain is its neuroplasticity. New neural pathways can be established so that you can become a grateful person and a problem solver. You are not doomed to always be a complainer. You can develop new ways of thinking that will reduce your stress.

Sometimes though, the inner battle for our mind has more to do than simply learning new thoughts. There can be other health and spiritual factors that require intervention from those who can help us.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

PREACHING WITHOUT NOTES

The night I had to preach without notes at Hope City Church ‘coincidentally’ was about God putting Philip into an unscripted situation where he would have to improvise based on the Spirit’s leading. Here’s the version with notes.



Acts 8:
26-28 Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.
29-30 The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
31-33 He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this:
As a sheep led to slaughter,
    and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
He was silent, saying nothing.
    He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
But who now can count his kin
    since he’s been taken from the earth?
34-35 The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.
36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.
40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.


God prompted this highly unusual, unscripted opportunity. The Holy Spirit is your teacher leading you into unusual scenes where you can play a part. How unusual was this event?


1.     The Unusual Place & Time


God had a strategic time and place for Philip. It was specific—noon today at that desolate road going from Jerusalem to Gaza. Where are the desolate places and when is the time to go there? Desolate may mean working in an Inuit village or it may mean a high-rise condominium in Downtown Vancouver. It may be this neighbourhood.

We need a theology of place, understanding that the earth is the Lord’s and he wants His glory to be revealed in every place. People on a mission from God recognize that we must be interrupted from our place of choosing to venture into the world we are less familiar with.

Sometimes it will be a call to Thailand, but more often it may be to the people living next door or the person who cuts your hair. Where are you going today? Listen for your prompting. Learn to recognize why you are at the places you go.

2.     The Unusual Person


The Ethiopian Eunuch was on assignment 4000 kilometres by chariot away from his home. A flight that would take us 4.5 hours would have taken him weeks. That is a long time to be away from home on a mission. He was an unusual man in that he was a eunuch. These royal servants had been emasculated to prevent them from getting into trouble with the royal harem. We would see him as a sexual minority. He was a financier doing business for a foreign dignitary, the Queen of Sheba.

There are people you encounter who are far from home and involved in business that you have no familiarity with. Philip gets into character by getting curious and asking a question.

It may feel bold for some, but asking what a person is reading is conversational. Improv artists must observe the scene and find their way into dialogue. How observant are you when you need to be?

3.     The Unusual Concern


Perhaps the Ethiopian man was a Jew. Perhaps he was a curiosity seeker trying to understand the world around him. He had the scroll of Isaiah and was using his long journey to study.

Philip is in the unusual place to meet an unusual man with an unusual concern. The Spirit makes an unusual request of Philip. Run alongside the chariot and ask the man if he understands what he is reading. Not, what are you reading—instead do you understand it.

Picture that scene… running alongside a chariot to ask if the man understands what he is reading. Sound awkward and unusual? God will sometimes lead us into awkwardness.

As the Spirit leads, the door is opened to reveal Jesus to the Eunuch. The Spirit is also speaking to the man who then requests to be baptized. Philip has responded to God and the unusual conversion has taken place. Then, the Spirit is leading Philip elsewhere to reveal the gospel to others.

What is God calling this church and perhaps specific individuals into? Because the Spirit of God is alive in you, there are specific answers that will emerge to interrupt your life plans.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PLAYING BY EAR

Musicians often fall into two categories. There are the conservatory-trained musicians who perform with sheet music in front of them and then there are those who rely more on musical memory and improvisation and a simple lead sheet with cues to guide them.


Playing by ear means you rely more on what you hear happening with other players and fit in with what sounds good. Playing by ear requires great attentiveness to the other and a willingness to stretch what you know into new expressions.

Following Jesus is more like being a jazz player feeling their way and creating in the moment rather than sticking strictly to a script that includes every note and an expectation that you will not vary.

When the apostle Paul was mentoring Timothy in his ministry, he had these words of wisdom.


2 Timothy 4:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction...
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.


In other words, get ready. Prepare yourself for planned and unplanned encounters. You have a ministry and need to maximize each opportunity to let God reach others through you. This is not a job that you go to and leave at quitting time. This is an on-call vocation where you will always be ready to do what you’ve been made for.

Part of your life as a follower of Jesus will include times of improv. Jesus sent out disciples to be messengers of the Kingdom and told them to travel light. They were not to bring an extra coat or purse. They simply were told to take the message and go improvise in the towns they would visit.

If they would end up in trouble, Jesus had simple instructions.


Luke 12:
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”


Like a prompter feeding lines to an actor, the Holy Spirit wants to teach us how to improvise by listening to cues and then responding.



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