Category Archives: Spiritual Health

28-Day Spiritual Fitness Challenge

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-9-14-20-pmInstead of giving up something for Lent this year, how about taking up a 28-Day Spiritual fitness challenge?

Two amazing MainStreet friends — Jaimie Hanly and Melissa Noreen — created a wonderful tool for growing in one’s prayer life and relationship with God. It’s a great idea for this Lenten season.

In invite you to check this out, and join the challenge!

Check it out HERE.

Thanks again Jaimie and Melissa for your labor of love!  May it bear fruit in many lives!

Cabin 21: Sweat it Out

rustic-log-cabin-design-stunning-interiors-13-2Jesus led me out of the Fishing Room, down a corridor, deeper into the mysterious Fish House. The walls and ceiling were all of warm, sweet smelling cedar planking. Lanterns lined the walls giving the place a cozy cabin feel. Under my feet, the ice was replaced by granite tile covered by a long, Persian runner of crimson hues. The soft rug was a warm and welcoming treat for my cold wet feet.

You would never have guessed we were still inside that little fishing shack on the ice. With each step, the temperature in the room increased. My nostrils were tickled by all the soothing, warming aromas of a luxury arctic spa — eucalyptus and lavender the most potent. The cold, drafty environs of the icy fishing room were replaced with the steamy warmth of the Father’s Sauna.

We reached the end of the long hallway, and stepped inside  a changing room next to two doors that looked like a sauna and steam room. I was already beginning to sweat, even though I was still wearing just my shorts and t-shirt only partially dried by the fishing stove. The curved shape of the walls and ceiling reminded me of the inner cabin of a boat.

Jesus told me to get undressed and go sit inside the sauna. He would give me further instructions once inside. As I shed my last layer of clothes, I noticed a verse on the wall over the sauna door:

STRIP OFF EVERYTHING THAT HINDERS AND THE SIN THAT SO EASILY ENTANGLES.

-HEBREWS 12:1

Continue reading Cabin 21: Sweat it Out

Cabin 20: Ice Fishing

Then immediately behind me I heard the creaking hinges of a door swinging open, and turning around I saw Jesus standing in the doorway of a little wooden ice fishing shack.

“Are you up for some more fishing?” he asked.

As I walked over toward the shack I noticed I was still dressed in sopping wet shorts and t-shirt. The angel song had raised the temperature, and a seasoned Minnesotan could tolerate shorts at 50 degrees — unless they’re wet.

“Come inside, and stand by the fire and dry out your clothes,” Jesus urged.

Over the door was a plaque with the verse:

MY SOUL LONGS FOR YOU. DEEP FROM WITHIN ME MY SPIRIT REACHES OUT TO YOU.

ISAIAH 26:8

I stepped into the ice house and just like the Father’s cabin, the inside was larger than the outside. The ordinary 6×8 ice house from the outside became a full service arctic spa on the inside with hallways and multiple doors.

I was immediately struck by the mouth-watering aroma of pan fish on a griddle. Jesus was preparing the lunch we had caught, or rather received, just before the winter storm interrupted our pleasant boat ride.

After a most satisfying meal, Jesus brought me down a hallway into a large “fishing room” where I saw probably dozens of holes drilled in the ice, and a someone seated on a bucket by each hole with a fishing line dangling in the water.

“Should we see what’s biting?” Jesus asked, again with a wink.

“Remember, Jeremy, what the ice and water represent. We are not fishing for walleyes or sunnies today. We’re here to see the kinds of things your soul yearns for, the things your heart chases after like hungry fish chasing a minnow.

Gulp. I had never felt this exposed before, as I looked at a room full of God’s servants all peering down into my soul through holes in the ice like eyes through a magnifying glass.

Continue reading Cabin 20: Ice Fishing

Mt. Rushmore of Gospel Virtues

This Advent at MainStreet Covenant Church we’re unpacking the “7 wisdom gifts” from above found in James 3:17. Following Daniel Henderson’s argument in his book The Prayer God Loves to Answer, we’re exploring a higher wisdom that enables us to find success and health in our relationships. This is contrasted with a worldly wisdom that may get us ahead in this world, but often at the expense of our relationships.

Its very interesting to contrast the seven wisdom traits in James 3 with other NT character traits such as the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5), the Beatitudes (Matt. 5), and the Marks of Genuine Love (1 Cor. 13).

I have adapted Henderson’s comparison chart into what I’ll call the “Mt. Rushmore of Relational Gospel Virtues.” Just as the four presidents helped shape the foundational values of our nation, so these four clusters of Jesus-shaped, gospel-centered traits are foundational for shaping our growth in Christlike character.

I wanted to share with you my homemade graphic for Sunday. Check out the similarities.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-3-40-23-pm

Check Your Engine (1 Peter 2:2-3)

We were cruising across the country in my 1995 Chevy Monte Carlo (see photo above), from California to Minnesota, when my “Low Coolant” warning light came on the dash as we neared the Colorado Rockies. The temperature gauge was also running hot.

I don’t know much about car engines but I do know you are wise to pay attention to warning lights and an overheated engine is nothing to mess around with when you’re hundreds of miles from home!

We pulled into the nearest gas station and filled the coolant back up. “Phew! We should be good now,” I thought. About 5 miles down the road the “Low Coolant” light was flashing again. The temperature gauge rising quickly. We pulled over and topped it off again.

My mechanically-challenged brain figured that as long as we kept the coolant tank full the engine would stay cool. We’d be fine. We probably pulled over and filled it up two more times before hearing an awful sound under the hood as the entire engine “blew up” (that’s my mechanically-challenged description) as we neared the outskirts of Denver.

Leaky coolant is not big deal if its leaking out onto the highway. However, if your coolant is leaking directly into the engine and watering down the oil necessary to keep things lubricated and operational, then you’re courting complete disaster. It took me being towed across the country, $3,000 and a new engine to learn this lesson.

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, the Apostle Peter wants new Christians to pay attention to warning dash lights and keep their spiritual engines — their soul — running smoothly. Continue reading Check Your Engine (1 Peter 2:2-3)

God’s Gourmet Chef

 

Today I want to share a personal update of sorts.

Pastors wear a lot of hats.

For example, today I was negotiating a lease with our landlord and consulting with our architect for our building project when I received a call from a person in rural Minnesota asking me to pray with him for his estranged family that lives in our area. Now I’m researching 1st century socio-political realities in light of our current political situation for a sermon, organizing a window washing project, and catching up on some admin tasks.

Yet, my favorite hat to wear as a pastor is what I’ll call a “gourmet chef of the Word.” You’ve heard of “Hell’s Kitchen”? Well, I serve in Heaven’s Kitchen cooking up a fresh variety of truth-saturated appetizers, soul nourishing meals, and irresistibly delicious desserts from God’s Word. With each recipe I try, my greatest hope is that you will “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8)! For I am all too aware that “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God”

The weekly sermon is probably the “main dish” that I spend most time preparing. But Apostle Peter would be quick to say that in order to “grow up” in our faith we need more than one meal a week! We need to drink daily of the “pure spiritual milk” of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2-3). A baby will die without multiple feedings a day on momma’s milk. Why do we try to get away with a one or two feedings a week in our spiritual growth?

So, I have begun preparing other smaller snacks for my congregation to nibble on between our Sunday gatherings. I share these goodies at my Daily Illumination blog. I am  currently offering deeper reflections on our 1 Peter study along with many other devotional writings. There’s nothing more rewarding than feeding others a good meal; and there’s nothing more disheartening than preparing a lavish dinner and having nobody show up.

(By the way, that’s how pastors sometimes feel when people don’t show up for worship: “Wow, I slaved away in this kitchen/study all week to prepare this tasty sermon just for you, and you don’t bother to get out of bed for it.”)

Let me tell you about a new dish to check out!  As you may have seen, I am experimenting with a new 5-minute “audio devotional” called The Mailbox Podcast. These are fun, spontaneous spiritual thoughts I share on my 1,000 foot walk to my mailbox and back. Its a chance for you to overhear my own thoughts as I attempt to find God’s truth penetrating the everyday moments of life. Its another way I’m trying to bring “Reports from the intersection of faith and life.” Listen to a sample here.

Now, let me share the more personal reason behind all my dishes I’m cooking up for you to enjoy. I discovered this summer that I had neglected my own soul’s cravings this past year and was not nourishing my own spirit. I was empty. Parched. Exhausted. Stressed. Burnt out. Distant from God.

In July and August the alarm bells were going off and I needed to re-evaluate my own life-rhythms and pastoral priorities. I stopped beginning my days by opening the laptop and answering emails. Instead I have devoted the first part of my day to quiet time with God and His Word. I am carving out larger portions of my weekly hours for study and prayer. As your pastor I cannot lead you places I’m not already going.

So, I have been seeing the big difference my daily quiet time or walks with God are having on my soul. I find myself inspired, hearing from God, seeing lessons in nature and my daily routine, and I just want to share them. That’s the real reason for the Mailbox Podcast….because even if nobody else listens to them, they are fueling my spirit and the process of making them is feeding my soul!

Do any of you journal? These are very much my “audio journal.” My grandkids will get ahold of them when I’m dead and gone, and hopefully enjoy a window into my life with God.

So, I do hope you’ll  subscribe to Daily Illumination and listen to the podcast as you drive to work, do the dishes, exercise, etc. Many of you have other places you go for spiritual nourishment each day — YouVersion reading plans, sermons, podcasts, etc. That’s great! I just invite everyone to find your own way of letting “the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

Regardless, I’ll keep my chef’s hat on and keep cooking up goodies for whoever wants to stop by for a snack or a meal!

Bon appetit!