Say Grace

Grace is unmerited favor, a blessing, a gift, getting what you don’t deserve. It is what God lavishes on us and we should emulate.

 

I was on a Costco run to pick up a few items (is it ever just a few items when you go to Costco?!?). I was dodging down the packed aisle I notice an older woman who was eyeing some food samples being laid out across the aisle. So enthralled in what was being displayed she bumped into a cart of a middle age couple. Surprised at the clash the older woman smiling sheepishly she said with a grace-seeking and humble bow, “I am so sorry.” You would think this to be a nonissue, accidents happen, she’s along in years and deserves some gracious margin, and besides, we are talking Costco samples! However, the middle aged man of the couple rammed his cart back into her, startling her and yelled in an angry tone, loud enough so all of us around could hear, “Hey, watch it lady!” He rammed her cart again. Just as a number of us were about to step in, his wife pulled his arm and steered him away, saying to him, “She didn’t mean it.” He glared at the older lady and moved on. The older lady kept smiling and went for one of those samples. I did too, but kept thinking how typical of our world today where earning, deserving, merit has pushed away kindness, love, and grace and replaced it with judgment, retribution, and vengeance. What is so needed today is grace.

 

Grace is what Christians call God’s extravagant love, care, and blessing initiated and freely given of God to any and all that would receive it. Some have described God’s gracious love as a beautiful breeze where we trim up a sail of faith to benefit from it. The Bible is packed full of explanations of God’s grace.

 

Grace is God’s gift of salvation from the deadly disease of sin.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Grace is the relentless love of God

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Grace is God including us in His faith family.

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His (God’s) own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God’s Grace is sufficient for life

2 Corinthians 12:9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

God’s great and amazing grace should influence us so that we extend grace to others, saying grace with out actions.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Luke 6:36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

So let’s say grace with our actions and emulate God’s wonderful grace. We all love an undeserved gift. We could be that gift to people all around us, even today. Why not bless our world and say grace with your actions?

 

Church is a great place to learn of God’s amazing grace. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. Let’s learn of grace and show grace together.

 

Seeking to show grace with along with you,

 

Mike

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Be a Helper and Find Hope

It has been a devastating time these past few weeks and months: destructive hurricanes, demolishing earthquakes, violent storms, decimating fires, deadly shootings, horrific accidents, and in our city of Cypress, California, one of our police officers was tragically killed in an off duty car accident, leaving behind a wife and two young children. The news and online media outlets continue to bring us up close and personal to scene after scene of the devastation and heart wrenching stories of people, real people, like you and me suffering. It grabs ahold of us, even more so if we know someone personally touched by the tragedy, and takes us to a place where fear is crouching at the door and we wonder about the state of our world. One person on my Facebook feed asked the question, “With all that has happened, does anyone else think apocalypse?!?” Now most don’t think it’s the end of the world, but the dark cloud of hopelessness does loom.

 

So what do we do? How do we find hope? I love the quote from the late, but beloved Fred Rogers, who said…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news or in movies and my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ For when we look to the helpers, we will find hope.” – Fred Rogers

What a great truth, for there are always going to be helpers. Mr. Rogers went on to encourage news reporting to include such stories to help children, and really all of us, to find hope in times of calamity (go here to see Mr. Roger’s quote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LGHtc_D328 ). To the credit of our news media, there has been a lot of reporting on prayer vigils, blood donations, people providing meals for firefighters, people helping neighbors evacuate, concerned friends housing animals displaced by the fires, neighbors helping to save another neighbor’s home, people giving to disaster relief organizations, and churches and business taking up collections to help in some way. There are a lot of helpers!

 

Helping brings hope, for it shows that the devastation is not all there is. Much of the difficulty of life we cannot stop or avoid. Even Jesus said…

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

In this world of tribulations we don’t just have to watch for the helpers, we can be a helper. Our instant, right now reality of social media puts us in at the epicenter of much of our world’s catastrophes, and we can help. We can all pray!

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,

James 5:16b …The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer works. Now sure, we don’t always get the answers we want, but there is a peace and hope that can settle in our hearts as we pray and trust God.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

So, yes, let’s pray, but if we are able, let’s give through our churches, or the Red Cross, or through reputable organizations. We can also donate our time, or clothes, or even blood. We can also find a way to encourage first responders who risk their lives for us. Let’s be some of those helpers and bring hope. What could you do today to be a helper?

 

Church can be one of those places that aid us in being a helper. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. Let’s find a way to be a help in our world and bring hope.

 

Seeking to be a helper along with you,

 

Mike

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God, I Don’t Understand

Stunned, horrified, deeply saddened and groping for more information flooded my emotions as I took in the tragedy that happened in Las Vegas. Equally, that same sense of dread and dismay crashed over me like an unexpected ocean wave as just weeks before we learned of violent riots, hurricanes, another church shooting, earthquakes, more anger driven aggression, and more mayhem making storms. Our world is a mess. It’s overwhelming, even more so if you or someone you know is at the epicenter, and in all this tragedy many cry out, “God, I don’t understand.”

 

It is difficult to grasp the immense suffering these catastrophes have caused as lives are cut short, fear is compounded, loss is expanded, insecurities are amplified, isolation is magnified, and tremendous and deep pain is intensified. No answer seems good enough and no explanation erases the haunting memory of the moment. However, it does help to talk about what we are experiencing, and to consider some important thoughts, especially about God.

 

One thought to ponder is that God is sovereign.

Psalms 97:9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Psalms 147:5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 24:1-2 The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Job 42:2 I know that you (God) can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

 

He is working His plan and purpose, including His plans for us (See Jeremiah 29:11). Yet, in God’s sovereignty, why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen even to good people?

 

This is where we need to remember that God has given humanity the free will to choose.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

When the biblical leader, Joshua, was stepping down he challenged the people of Israel to make their free choice…

Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Giving humanity free will is because of God’s great love! See, it would not be love if there were no choice. We would be robots programmed to follow tasks, not beings created to love.

 

Now, the unfortunate reality to this love induced free will is some will choose not to believe in God or follow God’s way of life, and humanity chose to go against God, seeking to be like God (see Genesis 3:1-24, Romans 5:13). Our world was then, and continues to be, saturated with sin. We are born with a sin tendency. It’s in the air, and there is an evil one constantly manipulating so people do not choose to believe in God or live life His way. That choice has consequences, some disastrous. Some choices can even be evil, like what the world witnessed in Las Vegas. This difficult truth does not hold much comfort, but brings understanding that people make bad and evil choices where bad things happen, even to good people.

 

So what do we do when those bad things happen? Yes, pray for the victims and their families. Give aid where you can: give money, step up to donate blood, give time to volunteer, help where you can, and care. The key is to have compassion.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

It is the sense of feeling with someone who is in pain: helping them carry their sense of loss, understanding their struggles, lifting and enduring the weight of their plight. Not judging, not ignoring, not placating, but walking with them as they travel this valley, knowing the truth of God…

Psalms 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  

Psalms 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

We may not understand all the tribulations of life, but we do know there is a loving God who will walk with us. Let’s keep turning to Him.

 

Trusting God along with you in tragedy,

Mike

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Be That Fun Fan!

I love sports, and the month of October is a sports fan’s dream! Baseball playoffs and the World Series are in October. October is the month both the NBA and NHL seasons begin. Football season begins really hitting its stride in October. In addition, college basketball begins, college football rivalry matches are enjoyed, and soccer is growing with intensity in both the US and abroad. Golf is also in full swing (pun intended!) in October. Oh, and there is the world mixed curling championships in Switzerland this October!?! October has so many opportunities to be that fun fan.

 

Being a fan is fun! It is entertaining to root on a team or cheer an individual player. It’s gets thrilling to see great plays, and amazing athletes do the impossible. There is a unique rush of emotions as we scream and shout affirmations and applaud great advancement. I’m sure there is a whole psychology of being a fan, but it is a bit of a release from the tensions of daily grind as we join with others to cheer on our team. We sense that camaraderie, that togetherness, that unity, that oneness…and it feels great!

 

Not only is being a fan fun for what it does for us, but also it makes a difference to those we celebrate and applaud. I know when I played sports (water polo and swimming), hearing the crowds cheer fired me up, gave me motivation, spurred me on. I don’t know if I would have completed the one (and only) marathon I ran if it were not for the encouragement of those cheering me on. The Seattle Seahawks football team sees such value in their fans they call them the “12th Man,” or now “The Twelves.” A football team has 11 men on the field and Seattle is saying that their fans are just as important, for they are the 12th man!

 

The Bible challenges us to be those fun fans of others.

Hebrews 12:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

To ‘stir up’ another is to spur them on, to encourage, motivate, inspire them on. When we do that with others it really helps!

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

 

We have such an opportunity to cheer on others God has placed in our lives. So be that fun fan! Affirm your kids, your spouse, and your parents. Cheer on your friends, co-workers, and bosses. Applaud and encourage those who work in the stores you frequent, who clean our streets, who take our trash, and who protect and serve in our city. Be that fun fan that notices and gives a ‘shout out.’

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

There is a wonderful joy for each of us in being that fun fan, but also a great blessing for those we cheer on. Who could you be a fan of today?

 

Church can be a great place to get charged up to be that fan of others. If you don’t already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking to be that fun fan along with you,

 

Mike

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It’s Not Wrong, Just Different!

Two young and talented executives were arguing over the best solution to one of their company’s problems. Each had their reasons with supporting evidence that their solution was best. As an impasse was emerging, the debate turned to the deficiencies in the others plan seeking to prove the other wrong and their idea right. Finally, a senior executive was sought help these two move from argument to action. The young executives lit into a full-court press dismantling the others plan seeking to prove the mistake it would be to take on the other’s strategy. The senior executive let each have their say, stood up and said, “These possibilities are good and I can see them working, but one is not wrong and the other not right, they are just different. Consider a blend of the two or pick one.” The senior executive walked out the room.

 

Why could those young executives not see the truth that it’s not wrong, just different? Could it be they were so fixed on their idea that they could not think there may be another way? I know I faced something similar a number of years ago as I was on a missions trip in another country. I was so convinced I knew a solution to a problem, that my way was right and any other solution was just plain wrong. The blessing in all this was an older, wiser man on the trip pulled me aside and challenged me by saying, “Mike, your ideas are good, but so are other options, they are not wrong, just different.” Now sure, there are moral issues and civic laws where someone can be wrong but with many decisions or even food or unique food combinations, it’s not that they are wrong, just different.

 

The Bible challenges us in this area of being open to other ideas.

Ephesians 4:2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

It is all too easy for us to think that our thoughts, our ideas are the only possible solutions to the point that if people don’t listen and join in, we feel put off, offended, and even threatened. Yet God made us all different.

Acts 17:26 And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,

We are uniquely created by God (see Psalm 139:13-16) and put on this earth to interrelate and learn from each other.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

So maybe it’s not wrong, just different, and that difference may be a wonderful opportunity to be more inclusive, more open, and more accepting of others. This is how togetherness and unity is built. We are better for it and can experience the joy and wonder of being interwoven into a supportive community. How could you be more open to the differences of others today?

 

Church can and should be a great place to experience togetherness. If you don’t already have a church where you connect, we would like to invite you to our diverse church, Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Seeking to be more open to difference along with you,

 

Mike

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Creating a Unique Flavor in Relationships

There is a craze in the restaurant, food world that has been going on for a while. It is the fusion of different culinary traditions. These food fusions are unique blends of flavors that produce new, and quite delectable, tastes. Most people are familiar with the fusion of chocolate and peanut butter in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. However, there are many more food fusions out there like teriyaki tri tip tacos, Kim chi Burritos, Ramen fries, and ‘S’MOreos’ (a chocolate Oreo with a tossed marshmallow inserted!) Wow, I really want to try that!! Actually I grew up with my own food fusions; macaroni and cheese with ketchup, jam and bacon sandwiches, and cream cheese on hot dogs. What food fusions have you enjoyed or created? There are as many as your mind can imagine, like peanut butter on hamburgers, marshmallows and popcorn, Ramon and grilled cheese, ‘cinnaburger’ (hamburger between two cinnamon rolls), poutine burger (poutine is a Canadian favorite of fries, gravy, and cheese and this fusion pairs it with a hamburger), red velvet fried chicken, and lobster dogs (hot dog topped with butter lobster). Ok I am really getting hungry, are you?

 

The idea is that as these flavors join together they create something complementary and wonderful! Now sure, there is a science to these parings and people go to school and study why it is that these flavors do create something better, but for most of us, they just taste great. It does takes a bit of risk and daring to try something new but it can be a whole lot of fun and you may discover a new favorite food!

 

This idea of food fusions is a great example how we as people can create new flavors in relationships. People are unique and different. We come from different families, backgrounds, cultures, and abilities and when we connect and build relationships with people not like us, we both benefit! We are sharpened as Proverbs 27:17 says…

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

As well, the Bible also speaks to the unique flavor in relationships:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

 

Creating the unique flavor of unity and harmony in relationships take some work and adjustment.

Romans 12:16-18 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

 

We have a beautiful world full of unique and wonderful people God has created, people we can grow in relationships with and discover some new and amazing flavors with. Maybe it’s that new family that moved in on your street or that new coworker transferred from another country or that new student at your school. How fun! What new relationship flavors could you be creating this week?

 

Church can be a great place to meet new people. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to our culturally diverse church, Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Excited to create new relationship flavors along with you,

 

Mike

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It Happens When We Give

Proverbs 11:25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

 

I was at my dentist office getting my teeth cleaned and the hygienist was very excited about something going on in their office. It was not that they were getting new equipment, or more benefits, or the latest dentistry gadgets. It also was not some office party or more perks. What she was so excited about was an opportunity to give of her time to volunteer for a day where this dentist provides free dental care for adults in our community! She was so excited and thrilled to use her talents and time to bless others and she was experiencing the giddy joy of giving. This is what can happen when we give.

 

This joy and sense of being part of something meaningful happens when we give. We have seen it as a nation as many have given to victims of hurricane Harvey and Irma. One spot on the news highlighted people from the city of Malibu, California sending truck loads of given items to those in need in Texas. The report focused on the great joy it was to help out and on the great blessing of those who will receive. When we give, so much happens! When we help those in need, they are encouraged not only with help for their physical needs, but refreshed knowing they are not alone in their plight.

 

The Bible encourages us to give.

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 28:27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What is given to us as a result of our generosity may not come back monetarily or in the form of some material want we have longed for, but something far more valuable. When we give we connect as a community, with individuals in need and with others who are also giving. Giving opens doors and creates an inclusive community. Giving brings on those joyful feelings of being a help and that the actions of giving do make a difference to those who receive. Giving also pushes back selfishness, greed, want, and materialism. Now sure, we can give out of pride and to be noticed, and that kind of giving only fuels the heart in which it was given.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

Giving is at the very heart of God, who gave His Son not only to show us a generous way to live, but gave of His life to deal with humanity’s sin problem.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins.

 

Giving is fun! Giving is a joy beyond measure. Giving fills the heart and puts a smile on your face. Giving is a great antidote for bitterness and loneliness. If you are a giver, you know this to be true. Why not give giving a try! Something amazing happens when we give.

 

Now yes, church is a great place to give, but mostly to learn about our giving God. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. It would a joy to connect with you!

 

Looking for ways to give more along with you,

 

Mike

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