The Key to a Healthy Life

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak
January 22, 2016

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The Key to a Healthy Life

If we have met before or you saw the “Dr.” in front of my name, you might expect this article to be focused on your physical health, but what I really want to talk about today is much simpler than that. It is the foundation of your life on which all other things (including your health and fitness) are built. I want to talk to you about the way you see.

How do you see?

In I Timothy 4:8, Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

If you’ve had trouble sticking to routines or healthy eating habits, your focus may be off. Eating a healthy diet, establishing a good workout routine and getting plenty of rest may seem like healthy disciplines. We’re working on our bodies and improving ourselves. How can this be wrong?

It all comes back to the way we see.

God’s design for mankind is to have a relationship with Him. He wants to be intimate with you. He wants to direct your life, to speak to you and to have your attention throughout the day. The whole foundation of living the Spirit-filled life involves dying to self so that His plans can live through you. You can’t do that when you are constantly focused on your own agenda—even if it is a healthy agenda.

So how do you develop a healthy balance? How do you see correctly?

The Whole Being Approach

I Corinthians 6:19 asks us a sobering question:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, try a new thing. Learn to see yourself as God sees you. I want you to see His plans for you, knowing that His plans are for good. Instead of trying to focus on the commitment you have made to health and fitness, realize that your true commitment is to Him. The food you put into your body is just one small part of the big picture of your life.

A New Start for Every Day

Here is a great way to begin each day:

  1. Wake up and clear your mind. Before the tasks and responsibilities of the day crowd your thoughts, breathe deeply and practice a moment of mindfulness. Give your day to God—every bit of it. Say this out loud: “God, today is yours. Show me Your plan and let me be mindful of every moment and opportunity.”
  2. If you’ve done this, then you are ready. Now you have eyes to see and ears to hear. Your focus is on God and His plans for you—not your own. 
  3. It’s going to take some practice to remain in this state of connectedness to God. At first it may be a minute-by-minute decision. Whenever you feel your mind wandering off on its own agenda, reel it back in. Remain in a state of rest and mental awareness of who you are in Christ and agree that you are here for His purposes. 

Does this really work?

You may be thinking, “That sounds nice, Jeff, but this isn’t practical. How does this help me to fulfill my responsibilities and achieve my goals?”

Think about it. If you’ve already agreed to give your day, your thoughts, your agenda and your routine over to God, then what do you think will happen when it’s time to choose your breakfast food? Isaiah 30:21 assures us:

You will hear a voice behind you saying, this is the way, walk in it.

You won’t have to struggle through your day TRYING to make the right choices and STRIVING to stick to a routine. When you release your day to the care of God, agreeing to do His will and not your own, then He will converse with you! You will have a partner—the Holy Spirit—who will stick beside you! When you’re in step with the Spirit, smaller issues like getting to your next workout or choosing a healthy snack will practically happen on autopilot.

These things are not the main focus; your ministry to God, family and others is first. But when you see correctly, your vision is enlarged, and the small things remain small. God takes care of them! It becomes a beautiful way of life, and this is my prayer for each of you.

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by Gloria Fernandez
December 18, 2015

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We were homeless. We were churchless. But we were never without God's grace and protection.

When the economy crashed several years ago, my family and I were living in a 3,500+ square foot home in a new subdivision. Whether it was a good idea or perhaps his only option (I do not know), my husband took a one-day “business trip” and never came back. I was left with three children ages 6, 7 and 12 and a home in foreclosure. Soon enough, we were homeless.

We had a three-year struggle, but I’ll skip to the moment when we were saved.

I was always in prayer. I had no one else to talk to, and I knew that God was listening. One morning, just as I was at my breaking point, I was driving through downtown Naperville. I was drawn to a little white church on Benton Street. (This was when my life began to change for the better.) I was greeted and offered help from a kind person named Iris. No questions asked. I was blessed with more than just food and clothing; I received prayer—from strangers, nonetheless! That was all I needed: someone in my corner to pray with me and to intercede on my behalf. After feeling so unwelcome in so many places for so long, I was being invited to a place where I could belong!

It turns out that this little white church was Calvary’s Food & Clothing Pantry. And it just happened to be the day of the week when they open their doors to minister to the community.

On my next visit to the Food Pantry, Fred Gloff (a prayer counselor) prayed for me. Through his prayers, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit fill me. I felt His love wash over me and heal me. Each time I visited the Food Pantry, I gained strength to make it through another day and was reminded that I had the Lord to lean on.

My children and I have found our home at Calvary Church. My children found Jesus Christ through the Sports Ministry and the NXT youth programs. The youth basketball program brought healing and joy to their hearts (and mine, too). We were part of a team again. Coach Robbie and Coach Rein led everyone in prayer and inspired the kids before every game. We made new friends and were provided opportunities to serve and laugh. 

Since receiving Jesus Christ among such wonderful people in the little white church, my children and I have been blessed with so many miracles. Not only are my children in school, but they are thriving in school! My oldest girl is on the honor roll and on the high school basketball team. They all eagerly anticipate Wednesday and Sunday NXT services at Calvary to hear God's message presented in a relevant way.

As for me, I have the opportunity to serve beside those wonderful people who blessed me with their kindness and prayer. Now I get to share God's love and serve in the name of Jesus. There is just no end to our story. And although I am a single mom, I know that I am not alone. I can't wait to see what else God has planned for me.

God is not done with me yet.

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Christmas and a Cyborg

by Jeff Sandstrom
December 11, 2015

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Christmas and a Cyborg

We are all born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Did you know that the Christmas story starts with fear? Two individuals are terrified when God speaks to them.

This couple—Zacharias and Elizabeth—were old (the Bible says that they were “advanced in years”). An angel appears to Zacharias, and he is terrified. The angel tells him that he and his wife are going to have a baby. 

Understandably, Zacharias doubts the angel because he and Elizabeth are, in fact, “advanced in years.” Because of his unbelief, he is stricken with silence. He would be unable to speak until Elizabeth has the baby.

Six months later, the angel visits their distant relative: a little girl in a small agricultural village called Nazareth.

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a calling for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus."

Many of us have heard a similar story in pop culture.

A 1980’s science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger tells the story of a cyborg from the future that is sent back in time. His mission is to eliminate a young waitress who is destined give birth to a son who will grow up and lead humanity in a movement against the machines.

A soldier is also sent from the future to protect the waitress. He is a messenger who is sent to deliver the news that her unborn son is going to be the one to save the world. 

When she is told this information, she says, “Are you sure you have the right person? Do I look like the mother of the future? I’m not tough or organized. I can’t even balance my checkbook.”

She says, “Look, I didn’t ask for this honor, and I don’t want it—ANY OF IT!”

She is afraid of her calling. 

She eventually accepts this burden with glorious purpose.

Later her son (from the future) is quoted, “Thank you for your courage. Remember the future is not set. You must be stronger than you imagine you can be. You must survive, or I will never exist.”

God’s calling on your life can bring fear, whether it’s becoming a missionary overseas, starting a new job or picking up the phone to call an estranged loved one.

People who live in fear never have good stories, but we’re called to live a life worthy of good stories. When we don’t overcome fear to live a story-worthy life, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.

Are you living a life worth telling stories about?

May your love for God be stronger than your fear of the unknown.

May you live a life worth telling stories about.

May you accept your part in changing the world.

May you accept God’s calling on your life. 

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Blessed Because She Gave

by Pastor Jason McElwee
November 25, 2015

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Blessed Because She Gave

This past Tuesday, Calvary’s Outreach Ministries partnered with 50 volunteers and Chicago City Church for our annual Thanksgiving outreach. We served a Thanksgiving meal to over 500 low-income and homeless families and distributed 250 coats and 100 knitted hats and gloves.

This is my fourth consecutive year serving at this event, and each year I am humbled by the needs of so many low-income families and the many unique challenges that each individual faces. I am also amazed at how God works through this serving event to bless this community, our volunteers and our church.

As our team of volunteers arrived, we efficiently set up to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal. During this time, Chicago City Church conducted a service during which the Gospel of Christ and the message of hope was offered to everyone in attendance. We heard testimonies, enjoyed praise and worship and listened to the preached word. One of the volunteers who served with us had never been to a church service before. Though she came to serve, this volunteer was captivated by the preacher’s message.

On our bus ride home to Naperville, God amazed us once again. This volunteer began asking questions about what was being proclaimed. She asked why people were saying “thank you” to Jesus. This question led to a great conversation that I was able to have with her about God, faith and salvation. After agreeing that she needed a Savior, we led her in a prayer of salvation to receive Christ.

She came to serve.

She walked away transformed.

There’s an old saying that states, “It is better to give than to receive.” But, after witnessing how God moved this week, I will always state, “It’s a blessing to serve others and so that even one heart can receive Christ.”

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by Jeff Sandstrom
November 13, 2015

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Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions spiritually? Doing church work, helping people and even attending services don't energize you anymore.

Do you ever feel like you live a lifeless religion?

People often believe that being born again is a single circumstance in a person’s life that they can recall and say, “That’s when I became a Christian.”

As true as that may seem, being born again isn’t just a single experiential circumstance in which someone “gets saved.” Being born again is not a label; it’s a process that happens again … and again … and again.

Repetition can breed boredom.

Being born again is about stopping the old and starting the new. Being born again is about a renewed mind.

It’s not a one-time occurrence. It can actually happen daily if you allow it to.

A young man once came to Socrates and said, "Socrates, will you be my teacher?" Socrates told the young man to follow him, and he turned and walked into the ocean.

The young man followed him into the sea, and they kept walking until the water was just touching their lips. Socrates then turned around and put both hands on the young man's head and pushed him under the water.

Wanting to be compliant, the young man stayed there for a while, but soon he began to spit and sputter and thrash about, trying to get air. All the while, Socrates held him under the water. Soon the man began blowing large bubbles and thrashing about as wildly as he possibly could, and finally Socrates took his hands off the young man who then popped to the surface, gasping for air.

Spewing water out of his mouth, he looked at Socrates and said, "Master, why did you do that?"

Socrates looked at him and said, "When you want to learn as much as you wanted to breathe, then I will be your teacher."

May you allow the teachings of Jesus to have full effect in your life.

May you be as desperate for a renewed mind as you are for your next breath.

May you take off your old self and fully put on the new you.

May you be born again.

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The Wealth is in the Word

by Pastor Kregg Hood
August 17, 2015

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The Wealth is in the Word

I’m reminded that going to God’s Word always helps me to do a better job of stewarding the money that he trusts me to handle. Sure, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but the Bible and God’s mercy always give us the insight and the encouragement to get back on track.

As you read the passsages below, remember that “the wealth is in the word.” When we stray with money (and who doesn’t?), read the Bible and be reminded of the Lord’s wise instructions, powerful promises and important commands.

Here are a few of the passages (and there are many, many more) that I like the most. If you really grab the truths in these verses and take them to heart, good things will come. For example, you will draw closer to the Lord, spend less, increase your saving, reduce your debts and prepare yourself to experience many more blessings.

The verses below are in no particular order, but, as you read and re-read them from time to time, you will descover new insights and fresh courage.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)   

“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Luke 16:11 (NIV)  

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first and best part of all your income. Then your barns will be full, and your vats will overflow with fresh wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 (GW)   

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)   

“If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained…I would have been unfaithful to God on high.” Job 31:24-28 (NIV)   

“The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Psalm 37:21 (NIV)   

“Don't withhold repayment of your debts. Don't say ‘some other time,’ if you can pay now.” Proverbs 3:27-28 (LB)   

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Proverbs 13:11 (NIV)

“Plans succeed through good counsel ...” Proverbs 20:18 (NLT)   

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)   

“He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.” Proverbs 21:17 (NIV)   

“The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” Proverbs 21:20 (NLT)   

“Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don't last forever, and the crown might not be secure for the next generation.” Proverbs 27:23-24 (NLT)   

“Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words...” Ecclesiastes 5:7 (NLT)   

“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:9  (NLT)    

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” Isaiah 55:2 (NIV)   

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10 (NIV)   

“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” I Corinthians 16:2 (NIV)   

“For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.” II Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT)   

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)  

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)    



7 Ways to Increase Your Credit Score

by Pastor Kregg Hood
March 12, 2015

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7 Ways to Increase Your Credit Score

Credit scoring is one of the deep, dark secrets of our modern financial world. Banks and other lenders want to lend money, and we want to borrow from them. But these lenders also worry that people won’t pay their bills. So, to protect their interests, lenders now turn to sophisticated formulas and complex computer technology to create credit scores. This helps them make new lending decisions in seconds.

The most commonly used credit score is a three-digit number from 350 to 850. Your score rates your risk to a lender or insurance company. Higher numbers indicate less risk and potentially lower prices. Lower scores predict higher risks, creating higher prices for your home, car, insurance and other consumer items.

So, to increase your credit score:

1. Check your credit report.
The main credit reporting agencies that keep up with this information are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each one has a website by their name and also a toll-free contact number. Errors with negative information can reduce your score and severely hurt buying power.

2. Pay all bills on time.
35% of your score comes from your payment history. Paying all your bills on time is the most important step you can take to create (and keep) a high score. Remember, lenders may report you as late, even if your tardy payment was only an accident.

3. Reduce credit card debt.
30% of your credit score is tied to the size of your total debt as a percentage of your total credit limit. This means that, if you owe too much money for their secret formulas, your score will drop, even if you pay on time. Your best defense is to pay off debt as quickly as you can and keep your outstanding credit or charge card debt less than 50% of the total credit available. Below 30% is even better.

4. Pay more than “the minimum.”
Lenders use this tactic to lead you to stretch out your payments. This allows them to charge interest on your credit cards for a long, long time, even more than 25 years! However, if you pay more than what’s required, you’ll save a fortune in interest and raise your score more quickly because the consumer debt listed against your record will go down.

5. Take care of established credit accounts.
A long, positive credit history with a few lenders also raises your score. Also, once you’ve opened a credit account, don’t be too quick to close it. Contrary to public opinion, closing unused accounts can hurt your score.

6. Don’t apply for new credit unless you really need it.
Credit scores also drop when you request new credit. This means getting “90 days same as cash” or a 15% discount on your purchase will put a hit on your score.

7. Be patient.
It takes time for the system to raise your score. But every positive step matters, and in nine to 18 months, you can increase your score dramatically. 



10 Steps to Financial Freedom

by Pastor Kregg Hood
January 16, 2015

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10 Steps to Financial Freedom

Need help with your finances? Here is a quick overview of a personal financial freedom plan. Give it time, stay on track and trust God to help you.

In fact, this content is an abbreviated version of what is also in my book, “From Debt to Life” (available on our Thrive page to download at no charge). Follow these 10 steps, use the forms and worksheets and you can develop your own program.

1. Determine why you’re in debt.
Financial freedom starts with spending less than you earn. If you can’t do that, then you need to know what’s stopping you. There is no doubt that the devil has figured out a way to tempt you. So let the Lord show you the way out. Remember, your debt SPENDS your future income.

2. Stop going deeper in debt.
Cutting expenses can be the fastest way to reduce your debt load. As expenses are removed or reduced and your finances heal, your attitude, relationships, emotions and sense of humor start getting better, too!

Also, look for ways to bring in more money to offset your expenses. For example, can you find a better job? If not, could you get a second, part-time job? It could be the smartest way to get caught up. You might also try to sell something you own or have equity in. Use the money to pay down your debts and steer clear of new debt. This option may also work to reduce spending if the thing you sell is something that actually costs you money each month.

3. Find out how much you owe.
Check all your debts and know exactly what you owe, to whom you owe it, how long you have left to pay and how much you’re paying for interest. Write everything down.

4. Know your income and expenses.
Now, take a look at your checkbook and figure out what you have coming in each month. See where you’re spending your money. Keep track of this information by categories so you’ll be able to move to the next step.

5. Make a spending plan.
If you’re spending less than you make, you’re in good shape to pay off old debt or save and invest for the future. If you spend more than you bring in, you need know exactly where and why. Make your spending plan a road map for your financial future. There’s a lot more to say about this step, so I’ll save it for a future article. These forms and worksheets will be a big help here

6. Develop a written repayment plan.
If your spending is out of control, you need to pay off your old debt first. Write down your plan to do this for two reasons. First, it helps you clarify exactly what you need to do. Second, human nature and experience show that you’ll stay more committed if you write it down.

7. Develop a savings plan.
It doesn’t matter if the amount is small at first. Just get started! Put any amount away each and every month.

8. Set goals.
Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would be different for me if I were financially stable?
  • Where do I want to be one year from now?
  • Where do I want to be five years from now?
  • Where do I want to be 10 and 20 years from now?

The answers will help you to stay motivated and on track for the future.

9. Keep simple, accurate records.
Record your income as it comes in and all of your expenses as they go out. Always write down what you spend in your checkbook and keep all credit card receipts for at least a year. Throw them away when you’re sure you won’t need them for warranty reasons or to make sure the charges were accurate.

10. Practice good money management.
These 10 steps form the basics for both your present and future money management. Learn and practice them, and you’ll gain the experience to effectively manage all of the financial resources that the Lord puts into your hands. He wants to trust you. That’s what being a steward is all about. Decide to be a good one.

For more help, check out these resources:

Thrive Resource Page


Book: "From Debt to Life"

Book: "Escape the Debt Trap"



Top 10 Tips for Getting Your Spending Under Control

by Pastor Kregg Hood
December 12, 2014

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Top 10 Tips for Getting Your Spending Under Control

God cares about everything in your life—spiritual, emotional, physical and even financial. When you realize that more than 2,200 verses in the Bible deal with money and financial issues, you can see that God wants to lead you in your finances.

It’s so easy to spend more than we make—especially during the holidays. Every store is offering a too-good-to-be true discount, luring us into spending more than we planned. So, to reduce your expenses fast, here is a “top 10” list. Try to implement these right away before you get into trouble this holiday season.

  1. “Just say no” to new debt. This is especially true on the big-ticket items. Even if you need a new refrigerator or even a new car right now, don't assume that the low interest rates justify a new multi-year commitment.
  2. Make and follow your personal spending plan. Don't wait another day to figure out what you can and can't spend. Be tough on yourself at first. After you start to make progress, you can relax a little when you are truly following your plan.
  3. Watch out for how often you use your debit card to get cash from an ATM. First, remember that many ATM accounts charge a fee to use their service. Then remember that it's far too easy to get money out of your account. Decide how much cash you can afford to spend each month and then use your ATM only according to your plan or when it's an emergency.
  4. Take a shopping sabbatical. Some of us go shopping because it relaxes us. Others of us go because we're bored. Watch out for any trips that take you to a place where you might be tempted to buy something you don't really need.
  5. Avoid impulse purchases. Save up for all of your purchases until you're sure you need them. Use what you have a bit longer and fix things or wear them out.
  6. Use your cash to pay down a credit card balance. It may not seem like very much compared to your total balance, but every dollar paid on the balance means reduced debt and less interest you’re paying on it. You’ll be surprised at what a difference this can make.
  7. Stay home and cook. For the price of one meal eaten out, you can usually buy groceries for three to five home-cooked meals. Remember, the money saved is not extra spending money. Use it to pay down your debt.
  8. Take your lunch to work. This is a quick way to save $25 to $30 per week. That may not sound like much, but it’s over $100 per month! Take the money you save each week and add it to the amount you’ve been paying on a credit card or use it to pay for necessities you’ve been charging on a credit card.
  9. Discontinue monthly subscriptions and memberships that aren’t absolutely necessary. Is cable TV or internet access really more important than your sense of inner peace? Do you really need a daily newspaper? Can you learn to exercise at home instead of the health club? One thing by itself may not seem like very much, but together they all add up at the end of the month.
  10. Use the “envelope system” for spending (I wrote about it in “From Debt to Life,” which you can download for free on our Thrive resource page). This is the single most practical action you can take to get your spending under control.

More than anything, remember that the Lord wants to guide you in this process. Hebrews 11:5-6 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”

God is on your side and wants to help you in all aspects of your life. Implement these tips in your life, and you’ll be able to reduce some stress of the Christmas season. 



7 Steps for Solving Overspending at Christmas

by Pastor Kregg Hood
November 20, 2014

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7 Steps for Solving Overspending at Christmas

Ah, yes … December 25. With its celebration and gift giving, it will be here before you can say, “Ho-Ho-Ho.” But, if you overspend, “Ah, yes” turns to “Oh, no” when credit card statements arrive in January. Try giving these steps a shot to avoid overspending this holiday season.

  1. Make a Gift Spending Plan. Decide in advance what you can truly afford. Estimate your spending on the basis of what you have or will make by the end of the year. Do not base your plan on what you can borrow. Write your plan in list form: who, what and how much. Keep the list with you and follow it carefully when you go shopping.
  2. Shop the sales. Most people get in trouble with Christmas overspending when they buy in a hurry or on a whim. Look for genuine bargains.
  3. Pay with cash. Research indicates that over 50% of Americans are paying off Christmas credit card debt in September of the following year. To be frank, any loan on a credit card is dangerous. But, if you commit to paying off the debt within 35 days, you will hold interest payments to a minimum. Still, remember that you must be serious and watch every dollar carefully.
  4. Watch out for automatic gift exchanging. This is a frequent tradition for some family or friends, and it works for some. But it can also become a source of guilt or just habit.
  5. Consider giving handmade gifts. If you’re good with crafts, these gifts are always special to the people you love and who love you.
  6. Write a card. For the rest of us who are not so handy with crafts, a beautiful card with a great message and your handwritten note is a wonderful gift.
  7. Make a memory. Time is one of the most precious gifts that you can give. Many of the people you love would rather have you schedule a time to go have fun together. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, either. You could meet for lunch or coffee, go to a movie or plan some other enjoyable experience. Write a card, describe your plan and suggest a date. Tell them that this year you are trying something new and you want to get together with them as your gift.

Ultimately, the best plan for Christmas spending works all year long: pray for wisdom and commit to follow God’s lead. Make this Christmas a time when people experience through you the true meaning of John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son … Jesus.




6 Benefits of Keeping Your Kids Active This Summer

by Robbie Gonzalez
May 29, 2015

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6 Benefits of Keeping Your Kids Active This Summer

Most of us have a childhood where we can look back and remember being outside, playing with friends, going to the playground or being at the baseball field for a neighborhood game.

We were active.

Generations change as culture changes. Tablets, smart phones and video games are great, but sometimes the advancement of technology cripples our youth into limited physical activity. But physical activity is an important part of childhood.

In order for us to grow into a healthy person, we need to work on our emotions, our intellect, our spiritual health and, yes, even our physical health. This can’t be something that we wait to do until a doctor scars us with our future health; we must take our children’s health seriously.

The benefits from children being physically active are endless, but here are a few:

1. Your children will have stronger muscles and bones.
This is important because, from our head to our toes, bones provide support for our bodies and help form our shape.

2. Your children will decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can lead to vision problems, nerve damage, heart disease and kidney problems.

3. Your children will have a leaner body.
Exercise helps control body fat. Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. Obese children are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

4. Physical activity lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
In a child with hypertension/high blood pressure, the blood pushes too hard against the blood vessels, which can cause damage to blood vessels, the heart and other organs.

5. Your children will be less likely to be overweight.
Obesity is associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

6. Physical activity improves psychological well being, including increased self-confidence and self-esteem.
Low self-esteem (feeling unwanted, unloved and unaccepted) can often lead to learning disabilities, disciplinary problems and depression later in life.

Young people need to have a recreational activity in their lives; it is essential to their development. Children who are involved in organized activities learn a lot about teamwork. The quality of being a good team player is something that will help them throughout their whole life.

At the very least, being part of a team can help young people to live a healthy lifestyle. Many sports require attaining a high fitness level, maintaining proper nutrition and keeping an awareness of what is required to perform in the sport. This also leads to emotional health and improved self-esteem.

Make sure your kids are involved in some sort of activity for the summer. You never know … it could save their life.

Calvary Sports focuses on developing kids physically, spiritually and emotionally. For more information about Calvary Sports, visit our website or email us



5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Sugar Today

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, health and wellness expert
April 05, 2015

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5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Sugar Today

Imagine yourself on a Saturday night. You're relaxing, catching up on your favorite TV show and probably eating or drinking something. What are you eating? If you are like the majority of people you can probably hear yourself saying, "I want something sweet!" Ice cream, cookies, brownies, leftover Easter candy. If all else fails, you'll settle for a glass of sweet tea or coffee with cream and sugar.

Does that sound like you? If so, you are like most people. Eating or drinking sugary things makes us feel good— at least for a little while. That sweet rush raises your blood sugar, provides you with a boost of energy and carries serotonin to your brain, which makes you happy. Unfortunately, these enhancements last only a short while, and they are followed by the inevitable "crash." And how do we treat a crash? More sugar, of course.

Now, we all know that sugar isn't very kind to our waistlines, but the dangers go beyond that. Sugar impacts our bodies in ways that you would never imagine.

1. Sugar triggers hunger
Have you ever noticed that your stomach starts to growl a short while after eating sugary foods? This can be attributed to the fact that sugary foods cause our blood sugar to rise, which signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is necessary for delivering glucose from the blood into the cells, lowering blood sugar levels. Once there is a drop in blood sugar, the body is alerted that it is hungry.

There are obvious sugar hosts, such as soda, candy and other treats, but sugar is prevalent in less apparent substances, as well—like juices and coffee drinks. Also, refined flours rapidly convert to sugar, meaning that they have a similar impact on the body and should be avoided, too.

2. Sugar leads to mood swings and fatigue.
Are you the type of person who greets the day with a sweet cup of coffee and then heads out on your way? If so, you have probably experienced the shaky, lightheaded feeling that makes you want to eat the first thing that you see.

This is a result of your blood sugar getting low and bringing your energy and mood down with it. Your first instinct may be to reach for another energy booster (like a sweet pastry), but this type of nutrition sets you into a cycle of sugar highs and crashes.

3. Sugar will be stored as fat.
When the body releases insulin, it begins to store excess calories as fat. As we said earlier, it is easy to fall into a cycle of eating sugary foods. When a person consumes a high level of sugar over a period of time, the body becomes resistant to insulin. In order to compensate for this change, more insulin is released. More insulin means more signals to store fat.

Excess fat storage around the midsection is more than just an appearance issue. This type of weight gain is known for contributing to the development of heart disease, diabetes, and more.

4. Sugar makes skin appear older.
I think it's safe to say that no one wants to intentionally sabotage their skin and make themselves look older. However, that is exactly what you are doing by consuming high levels of sugar.

Sugar creates advanced glycation end-products. This causes damage to collagen and elastin in the skin, which leads to sagging and defined wrinkles. The good news is that, if you have begun to notice your skin aging in an untimely manner, giving up sugar will allow your skin to take back a bit of its youthful appearance.

5. Sugar makes us more susceptible to sickness.
As we mentioned earlier, sugary foods cause the pancreas to release insulin in an effort to lower blood sugar and deliver it to the cells. Insulin hinders the release of human growth hormone, which causes our immune system to suffer. This leaves us more susceptible to infections and viruses.

As you can see, consuming significant amounts of sugar and refined flours handicaps us in many ways. Allowing these ingredients into our bodies opens the door for sickness and emotional instability and closes the door to health and happiness.

Choose to take care of the body you have! 



Is your diet making you cranky?

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, health and wellness expert
March 01, 2015

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Is your diet making you cranky?

Have you ever heard the saying, “lean and mean?” There’s a lot of truth to that. Sometimes we dive head-first into the latest diet plan, and we’re much more concerned about restricting our calorie intake than we are in developing a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. Doing the math, we may figure that 1,000 calories a day will do the trick since we used to consume about 3,000. This way of thinking turns out badly for a number of reasons.

First, if we don’t know much about healthy food plans, we often start by buying everything in the supermarket labeled “diet.” This can lead to a cart full of diet soft drinks, frozen processed microwave “diet” meals, and reduced-calorie snacks like baked potato chips and “reduced calorie” canned soups and stews.

Why Diet Foods Don’t Work

In reality, we’re fueling our bodies with nutritionally bankrupt food items that are highly processed. These “fake foods” are just as dangerous as the pizza and donuts we were eating last week. The only difference is that we’ve reduced our calorie intake. This kind of diet plan immediately sends warning signals to our brain that tells our body we’re in starvation mode. Now our body is on “lock down.” Our metabolism slows down, so we’re not burning as many calories as before, and our body is busy storing fat.

Since we’re in energy-saving mode, we become tired. Without enough fuel to go about our daily routine, we become irritable. We may even develop a migraine. Next up, we reach for coffee or a caffeinated soft drink to pep us up, which further complicates the problem. 

This is no way to diet, and it almost always leads to regaining even more weight than the five or ten pounds that we lost. Are you feeling the discouragement? Don’t worry; there is a much better way!

The Truth About Processed Food

If you really want to lose weight AND keep your overall state of well-being and happiness, then you’re going to have to look at food as fuel. As I’ve explained in my seminars and on my website, the best way to diet is to simply switch our eating habits. The best nutrition is found in food that is as close to its natural state as possible. This means fresh, whole, one-ingredient food. Start by shopping the outside perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, and meat are found.

Processed food taxes our digestive system as well as our liver. Because these foods are not natural, they are largely seen as foreign substances, and our bodies actually produce toxins trying to digest these “fake foods.” As you learn more about healthy eating, you begin to understand how the food industry markets packaging to appear healthy when it’s really not. Labels that say things like “fortified” and “enriched” will actually become warning signs to you … but that’s for another article!

For now, I want to give you a quick list of food items that will boost your mood! Be sure to incorporate these into your healthy eating plan to set yourself up for success!

10 Foods That Boost Your Mood

1. Asparagus. This veggie is one of the best plant-based sources of tryptophan, which serves as a basis for the creation of serotonin, one of the brain's main mood-regulating neurotransmitters.

2. Honey. Got a sweet tooth? Honey is packed with goodness, and it helps to reduce inflammation, which is very important for maintaining a healthy, happy brain. Chronic inflammation is connected to some forms of depression.

3. Eggs. These babies are loaded with mood-boosting zinc, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and iodide.

4. Broccoli. This delicious vegetable contains a trace mineral called chromium, which not only helps you to metabolize food, but it also increases your serotonin levels.

5. Chickpeas. Think hummus and reach for it to get a nice serving of vitamin B6, which helps your body to produce serotonin and norepinephrine, the mood regulator twins.

6. Almonds. Packed with magnesium, almonds ward off irritability, fatigue, mental confusion and predisposition to stress.

7. Chia Seeds. These are an easy addition to a health shake and are a big boost to your health. And they’re rich in omega-3’s to fight fatigue, mood swings, memory decline and depression.

8. Salmon. If you’re feeling blue, adding extra vitamin D, the mood-regulating vitamin, can give you a boost.

9. Pumpkin Seeds. A zinc deficiency can trigger the blues. Pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc, as well as L-tryptophan, a natural mood booster.

10. Water. Hydration is essential for clear thinking and a stable mood. If you’re depriving your body of water, then you can experience headaches, irritability and fogginess.

There you have it! Now you’re ready for a happiness-boosting trip to the market to pick up fresh, whole foods. Keep a food and mood diary to keep track of low points in your day, what you’re eating and how you felt afterward. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the right foods can help you lose weight AND keep you smiling!



How to Stick to Your Resolutions

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, health and wellness expert
January 03, 2015

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How to Stick to Your Resolutions

With the new year now a reality, many of us have been in “self reflection mode.” We’re looking in the mirror and deciding whether or not we’re satisfied—not only with fitness but with other goals, as well. Have we grown? Have we reached new levels in our personal awareness, our relationships, our service to others? But what comes after reflection? What’s next?

Some of us will have to dig deep find something to improve in the new year, while others have that “something” staring them right in the face.

Did you know that weight loss ranks as #1 in the most common New Year's resolutions? With 61% of Americans reporting that they want to lose weight, it's not surprising that this is such a common goal.

However, with only 8% of Americans actually achieving their resolutions, we see a large margin of failure—not only for weight loss but for everyone who sought improvement.


Whether you want to be healthier, wiser or more musical, you'll need to ask yourself one question, what is my “why"?

Why do I need a “why”?

Why are you going to eat better? Why are you going to improve yourself?

If you can't nail down the reason why you want to make a change, I guarantee that you won’t have the drive to follow through. Things get old, visions become blurry, excitement wanes. This is why it’s so important to find your why.

What is a “Why”?

Your why is your higher purpose. It’s the stuff that keeps you going even when things get rough. Your why gives you purpose. With health and fitness, of course we want to look good and have more energy, but that’s not really your why. Your why is directly connected to your calling and purpose in life.

Healthy minds and bodies help us to serve our families and communities better. Fitness allows us to live out our calling without aches, pains or physical limitations and to walk out our divine purpose. That’s your why!

Let your higher purpose always be your why. God has designed a unique plan for your life, and you want to be able to follow through with it. That bigger picture will keep you focused and true to your goals even when they’re no longer new, fun or exciting. 

Setting Your Goals

Once you understand the why, think about what would better equip you for God’s service:

Is it God's plan for you to bring others into his presence through worship? Practice an instrument.

Did he create you to spread his word—possibly in another country? Learn another language.

Did he call you to be his hands and feet by giving and helping those around you? (Trick question! He calls all of us to this.) Be in good health so that you are physically able.

God is, of course, a really big God. He’s big enough to use anyone, anywhere, in any condition, to do his work. But wouldn’t you rather live in such a way that, when God calls you to run a race, you're ready to go? You've been training. You've been eating right. Your mind is clear. Now you’re at the starting line and ready to go!

I know I would.

Hold yourself to a higher standard this year. Keep in mind the importance of you. At times of weakness, remember that you work for a higher purpose. Remember that you are in training for the calling that God has put on your life!

Taking the Next Step

If you’d like some help getting on the right track, Dr. Jeff is leading a class this month as part of Calvary’s Believer’s Life line-up.

Start the Year Healthy
Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, Dr. Rod Thill, JR Niklos
Jan. 7 – Feb. 11

It can be fun and simple to take steps toward better health this year! You don’t have to make drastic life changes in order to feel better and have more energy. Come and learn as we take a look at how God created our bodies and how we can take steps to honor him with our bodies.



5 Unique Ways to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

by Dr. Jeff Rebarcak, health and wellness expert
December 04, 2014

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5 Unique Ways to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

Christmas is a season filled with family, candies, cookies, cakes and pies. I certainly have dreams of sugarplums dancing around in my head at this time of year! How do we battle the lethargy and guilt that often come from our overindulgence? Let’s take a look at these unique ways to stay healthy through the holidays:

  1. Slow it down. Mom always said to slow down and chew your food. Guess what? She was right! Recent studies show that if you slow down, eat consciously and chew your food at least 20 times per bite, you’ll eat 15-20% less. Eating slowly also was shown to help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Hormones that signal your brain to stop eating take 20 minutes to tell your nervous system that you’re full. So eat slowly and “chew up” those 20 minutes. You’ll be healthier for it.
  2. Use red or blue plates at the dinner table. You read that correctly. The color of your plate can make a significant impact on the amount you eat. Several studies have shown that the color contrast between your food and your plate will cause you to eat 22% less. If your food blends with the color of your plate, you’ll eat more—even if you feel full. The most recent study from Cornell University even showed that having a color contrast between your food and tablecloth could reduce over serving by 10%. Let’s keep it colorful for the holidays!
  3. Skip the long workout. Here’s my Christmas gift to you: releasing you from the 40-60 minute treadmill workout routine. Praise the Lord! Dozens of new studies have shown that short, high-intensity bursts of exercise with slow recovery phases (repeated during one exercise session) will burn 3-6 times more fat than endurance training. Studies indicate that 20 minutes of BURST training has significant metabolism and heart benefits when compared to training for 40 minutes or more.  In fact, when you BURST train, your body will burn fat for up to 48 hours. So don’t stress about the long workouts this season. BURST into wellness with a shorter 20-minute program.
  4. Laughter IS the best medicine. Let Santa’s “ho, ho, ho” and jolly demeanor be your guide this season. Recent studies from Loma Linda University show that not only does laughter improve your memory; it also lowers your blood pressure. A good belly laugh has also been shown to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your “stress” hormone and is known for lowering your metabolism while increasing your appetite and fat storage. Let’s heed the wisdom of Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Let’s be mindful to smile and laugh through this time of year. If you do, you may very well be healthier!
  5. God’s prescription for health. Jesus is the reason for the season as well as the source of and power to our health and healing. Proverbs 4:20-22 says,

“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” Meditating on God’s Word IS the answer for our physical bodies. Whether we need a major miracle or a minor wellness tune-up, deliverance and healing begins with dwelling on the Word.

Jesus told us his will for our health in III John 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that you prosper and be in good health.” His will is for you and me to have maximum health so that we can serve even more effectively. Let’s not stress during this Christmas season. Instead, let’s implement a few of the easy tips that we’ve discussed and then focus more on spreading the love of Jesus to those around us.