The Hidden Power of the Wait

I’m not sure when it happened, maybe years ago, but it seems at epidemic proportions!?! It’s everywhere: at the mall, on the roads, in restaurants, even on line, and most certainly with our computers. We hate to wait! Waiting has turned into one of the worst things that can happen. We hate to wait for a download, to wait more than a minute for our hot beverage, to wait in line, to wait for a package to be delivered, or to wait to talk to someone over the phone. It seems in our instant – microwave – ready made meals – on demand society we have been conditioned not to wait. We see no value in the wait. We want what we want and we want it NOW! I have an app on my phone that allows me to order my hot beverage so when I get to the store, it’s there waiting for me, not me waiting for it!!

Yet, there may be something in the wait. Sure, being more efficient and receiving things in a timely manner is great and needed, but there is a hidden power in the wait. The Bible puts it this way…

Proverbs 14:29  A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

Patience is to wait calmly, knowing there is something to be gained in the wait. In an online article entitled “The Benefits of Being a Patient Person: Good things really do come to those who wait” by Kira M. Newman, the value of waiting calmly brings good health, both mental and physical, better interpersonal relationships, and greater achievements. Newman’s article sites a study on the value of waiting well, done a few years back by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah A. Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons. The study revealed the hidden value of waiting was a more satisfied life with a more hopeful outlook. Having patience also led to less depression, less negative emotions, and better coping with distress. One of the other findings was that patience is actually a skill that can be learned!

The Bible challenges us to enjoy this hidden power of patience.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Romans 12:12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Psalm 27:14  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

To wait for the Lord is to place our trust in Him, leaning on His sovereignty, love, and guidance. It is a trust that He is working His will and His way in the wait.

So how then do we tap into this hidden power of waiting? One way is occupy the time with other activities (always being safe of course). It is a great time to review the day and think over our “to do” lists, lessons we are learning, and the ever-present list of blessings we have. Waiting with someone tends to pass the time but also builds relationships. I know I have spent a lot time waiting with friends on the phone or with those who have the time to wait with me. However, one of the best choices that brings us deep into the power of waiting is to spend time with God, reading the Bible, talking to God (this is called prayer). I remember one time I was waiting to get to my location on a train in Japan, I was trying to wait with someone, my wife on the phone, but she could not talk and she encouraged me take that time and talk to the Lord. It was an amazing time of interacting with God. I truly enjoyed that wait.

Instead of being frustrated this season, why not tap into the hidden power of wait. You just might find a deeper satisfaction of life and peace that surpasses understanding.

Church can be a great place to learn to find this hidden power of waiting. If you are not already connected to a church, please feel invited to ours. Our website has information about our various campuses. We would love to connect with you, especially during this Christmas season. Just check out our website, www.cypresschurch.net .

Seeking to tap into that hidden power of wait with you,

Mike

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The Power of The Attitude of Gratitude

Something happened a day or so ago. People were different. My wife and I went out for a walk and instead of neighbors not even acknowledging your presence, they actually stopped, said hi, shared a few things they were thankful for, and gave us a Thanksgiving greeting. We were also inclined to not just smile back but engage in conversation and join in on the list items which we appreciated. Thankfulness does something within us, it brings out a pushed down joy, brightens life, and causes a smile to appear.

According to Neil Burton in a Psychology Today article, The Psychology of Gratitude (posted September 23, 2014), having gratitude  “… opens our eyes to the miracle that is life, something to marvel at, revel in, and celebrate, rather than ignore or take for granted as it flies us by. It encourages and heightens life-enhancing states such as joy, tranquility, consciousness, enthusiasm, and empathy inhibiting painful emotions such as anxiety, heartbreak ,loneliness, regret, and envy, with which it is fundamentally incompatible.”

Burton started the article with a quote from the famous author, poet, philosopher, and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Expressing gratitude yanks our thinking away from entitlement and the prevalent ‘me’ thinking, consumer culture of the day that believes we deserve all we want. This self-centered attitude only leads to frustration, alienation, anger, and sadness. Yet, the power of  the attitude of gratitude shapes our worldview by taking us out of the center and gives us a proper human perspective that we are not divine.  Burton goes on to say, “Studies have linked gratitude with increased satisfaction, motivation, and energy; better sleep and health; and reduced stress and sadness.”

The Bible has always challenged us to wield this power of the attitude of gratitude.

1 Thessalonians 5:18   give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

It is to be grateful and acknowledge God for His bountiful blessings.

 Psalm 100:3-5   3 Know that the LORD, He is God! It is he who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.  4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!  5 For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 118:24  This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

To have that powerful, life-changing attitude of gratitude is to shift our thinking away from entitlement and onto that humble attitude, one of service and submission to God… that He is central and life aligned His way where purpose and perspective is found. That may be a tough stretch for some, but it might be just what you are looking for. Why not consider Him? It will change your life. Others of you already hold God as the highest affection of life. That is wonderful and continue to be grateful for all He has done and continues to do, for brandishing this power of the attitude of gratitude will bring great joy on this journey of life.

To help us foster this powerful attitude of thankfulness church can be very helpful. If you are not already connected to a church, please feel invited to ours. Our website has information about our various campuses. We would love to connect with you, especially during this Christmas season. Just check out our website for more information, www.cypresschurch.net .

Seeking to apply the attitude of gratitude with you,

Mike

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Just What I Needed Today

Have ever been working on a project and someone handed you just what you needed? One time I was working on my ‘project’ car (a ‘69 Jeepster Commando). I was having trouble dealing with an oddly placed bolt. A friend who was working with me just happened to have a wrench that seemed to be designed for such an occasion. Now, the job was still tough and I busted a few knuckles, but it was so much easier with the made-to-fit help. Specially designed tools and helps are also a great benefit when it comes to woodworking, or most any craft, but it’s also helpful for teams at work, school or in the community. Someone from either inside or outside the group steps up and brings a perfect solution for the next step or problem being faced. It was just what was needed for that moment, that day.

These little moments of just-when-I-needed-it mercy pushes back the overwhelming pressures of the project and keeps us moving forward. For, it is very easy to let the enormity of projects or tasks to overpower our drive and deflate our motivation. Especially if there is difficulty, conflict, or hardships.

This overwhelming reality of hardships and affliction hits life as well; a loss of a job, a loss of a political ideal, a loss of a loved one, a loss of a dream, a loss of a friend, a loss of health, a loss of self, a loss of a marriage, a loss of a child. We have no idea how we can move on. We get caught up with not only today’s issues, but what will happen tomorrow. What will happen? How will we cope? How will we make it? And the confusing spin of uncertainty takes us to despair and a hopelessness where we feel abandoned with no idea where to go.

Yet there is great hope in God!

Lamentations 3:22-24   22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

We have a God who loves us immensely.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Psalm 86:15  But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

And in this love God brings to us just what we need: made-to-fit mercy for what we deal with today. Mercy means kindness, compassion, help, and relief to endure what life throws at us. Not tomorrow’s afflictions, but today’s. Yet when tomorrow comes, then again, God’s mercy kicks in. Jesus said…

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It’s not that we do not prepare for tomorrow. Preparation and planning are important in life. However, in dealing with the struggles, tragedies, and losses in life trusting in God’s mercy can help.

It’s not that trusting in God’s love and mercy wipes away the pain or suffering or hardship, but there is comfort, wisdom, guidance and help available as we walk with our suffering and affliction. All we need to do is turn to Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

To come to Jesus is to continue to grow in understanding of who He is, what His way of life is all about, and yield to Him as Lord. It is a journey of faith that allows us to experience God’s made-to-fit mercy each day. This might just be what you are looking for, just what you need, today. Why not reach out for this help?

Church is a great place to grow in understanding of Jesus and His way of life. If you are not already connected to a church, please feel invited to ours. Our website has information about our various campuses. We would love you to connect with you, www.cypresschurch.net .

Seeking to grasp God’s made-to-fit mercy with you,

Mike

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Love Builds. Hate Destroys. Prayer Works.

What has been your reaction to the recent election? Maybe it was surprise. It was evident by the flustered shock and speechless astonishment of much of the media’s reaction as they were expecting a very different outcome. The Washington Post came out with a telling article the morning after the election entitled, “The media didn’t want to believe Trump could win. So they looked the other way.” The article puts it plainly, “the media missed the story,”

Another reaction to the election results has been most confusing. It is the overt outrage as some felt when their candidate or proposition or measure went in a direction contrary to predictions or desires. This reaction is all the spewing of hateful, aggressive speech and destructive actions of angry mobs. The morning after the election my Facebook feed was lit up with people venting their feelings, but some was downright nasty, hurtful, calling people awful names, passing judgements and attacking the character of those who did not vote their way. Why such destructive hate-filled language? Quite possibly they were emboldened by the detestable speak of name calling and the aggression of verbal bullying of the campaign. Maybe it created a current of loathing that turned not only into a wave of parroted violent rhetoric but a tsunami of hostile and hurtful physical violence. The rioting mobs that left burning and damaged cars in their wake are evidence of the destructive and injurious nature of hate.

 

Frustration is part of life. We don’t always get our way and circumstances continue to put obstacles in our path. We can chose to let that internal irritation fester into destructive hate or we can channel that energy into peaceful and positive change. This is what love does.

1 Peter 4:8  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love is a choice to act in a loving way regardless of how we are treated.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7   4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Sure it’s difficult, but it is a more excellent way that fosters better solutions and builds community. Hate tears down, love builds. Jesus called us to this relational and character building kind of love.

Luke 6:35-38  35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So important is this love, it is called the second greatest commandment in the Bible, Matthew 22:36-40, charging all to “love your neighbor.” Let love out by listening to others points of view. Let love flow through our words as we communicate.

Colossians 4:6  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Let love move us to find constructive ways to bring about change and build our communities. Love does build, but we have to make the purposeful choice to love. Will you?

 

There is another choice that many are encouraging after the results of the election. It is to pray.

Philippians 4:6-7  6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–  2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Prayer works. God does listen, and though He may not always answer as we wish, He does hear and we are changed. Why not try it?

 

Love and prayer are not natural human tendencies. That’s why a place like church can help. Church can teach us to pray and love like Jesus. If you are not already connected to a church, please feel invited to ours. Our website has information about our various campuses. We would love you to connect with you, www.cypresschurch.net .

 

Seeking to love and pray more together with you,

 

Mike

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The Subtle Power of Thanks

I saw it as I was sipping my ‘cup of joy’ (peppermint hot chocolate) at a local Starbucks. Yes, it was that time of year when the red cups come out. Though this year, 2016, Starbucks is releasing a green cup, but no worries, we can still sip our hot beverage in that traditional holiday red cup as we anticipate the season. So there I am savoring that peppermint splendor and chocolatey goodness observing something amazing. A young woman was reading something on her smart phone as her countenance changed to a concerned look. She leaned towards what seemed to be a friend sitting next to her and said, “Oh no an email from my boss.”

The friend nestled closer to read the screen along with the young woman, both faces intent, anxious, tentative. You could see they were examining every word, then all of a sudden their expressed changed, their pursed, tense lips relaxed, even moving into a smile, their eyes brightened, the one who had received the email brought one hand to her mouth and gasped and giggled in excitement. The friend looked the young woman in the eyes and said, “Wow, he really values you. What an amazing note of appreciation.” “I know,” replied the young woman, “I feel like I can take on the world!”

“Me too,” said a woman walking by, she must have been taken in by the scene as I was. “One of my students just handed me a thank you card with a loaded Starbucks card. I’m living the dream.” I smiled as I too was experiencing my cup of joy due to a thank you gift with kind words of thankfulness attached.

There is a very real, yet seemingly understated, subtle power of thanks. Being appreciated, affirmed, given words of thanks has a lasting effect. Kids of all ages thrive as their appropriate behaviors are acknowledged. People shine as appreciation fans the flame of talent, performance, and character. Thankfulness not only affects the receiver of those energy-giving morsels of blessing, but changes the internal climate of the giver of gratitude.

It has been said that…
Thankfulness pushes back the negative.
Thankfulness brings to light the positive.
Thankfulness is the gateway to joy.
Thankfulness settles the rise of the ‘me monster’ inside of us all.
Thankfulness is a release of the grip and bond of selfishness.
Thankfulness connects us to others.
Thankfulness is a power that blesses, affirms, and builds up others.
There is a subtle power of thanks…and we should use it for our world, nation, community, family, us. We all could use the energy-infusing, confidence-building, peace-bringing realty of giving thanks.

The Bible could not be clearer:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Notice these verses are about giving thanks, not expecting to receive thanks. The giving of thanks is a power we all possess and all can use. So let’s do this! Let’s change our world one moment of appreciation at time. Some are really good at this and other of us need a lot more practice, but let’s wield this subtle power.

Church is a great place to learn and grow in being thankful as we express thanks to God for who He is and all He has done. If you are not already attending a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of Branch churches in Los Alamitos or Garden Grove. Our website has all the information you need, www.cypresschurch.net . We would love for you to join us.

Seeking to express more thanks along with you,
Mike

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Revived Through the Risk of New Ventures

Back in my college days, I needed a few units to satisfy the requirements for my degree. They were elective units, meaning it could be any class. I just needed two units. As I scoured the list of offered classes my eyes caught a course entitled, ‘The Theory and Process of Accessing Creativity!?!” I was intrigued, and it fit my time frame. So I signed up and went to the first class meeting. The professor said there would be no tests, no quizzes, no taking of notes, and no papers, just one book to read and few in class experiences and one or two outside class projects. Then he turned out the lights and asked us to get comfortable and just enjoy a quiet moment. We were even encouraged to fall asleep if we could! Some classes were like that as we listened to classical music. We also went out on the lawn at San Diego State University and learned a bit of Tai Chi. We cooked, painted, and read children’s books and after each of these experiences we talked about how our amazing brain works and how these mentally risky ventures of focused attention get our neurons firing and we are, therefore, more creative, better at problem solving, and refreshed from the stresses of life.

As I went through these experiences, I was reminded of how God had already set this type of focus in motion by encouraging us all to take the mental risk of seeking Him.
Psalm 46:10-11 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
It is so easy for us to continue to do and be about our routines so much so it becomes mundane and rote. Sure, a little consistency and healthy habits are good, but we still need to add in the risk of new ventures to stretch our thinking and have new puzzles to solve.

God is like that. He is so huge and vast and big and awesome that connecting with Him can be one new venture after another. Yes, some great healthy habits of worship and practice of faith, but at every stage and age of life there is more of God to discover and experience. That is why Jesus said in the Bible book of Matthew 6, when the disciples were worried about life, we are to pause and seek God more.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This seeking of God and His way of life revives us, rejuvenates us and helps us tap into that God-given creativity to walk through life.

See, God has plans for us.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God’s desire for us is to be the people He created us to be (see Psalm 139) and that involves times to step aside from the routines of life and take the mental risk of learning of God and knowing more about God.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence

Some of you know God and continue to take those mental risks of knowing Him more. That is awesome! Keep doing that, and maybe even step out in a little more risk of serving Him in a new way. That new venture, with new opportunities and new circumstances, will take you to even deeper levels with God.

Others of you are not so certain of the God of the Bible, or know very little, or may have even had a bad experience. Maybe now is the time to seek God again. It might be just what you are looking for.

Regardless of where you are in your journey with God, church can really help. If you are not already connected to a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches in either Los Alamitos or Garden Grove. We talk a lot about God and how to have those new ventures with Him. If you would like to attend one of our campus or listen to a sermon on line, our website has all the information you would need. www.cypresschurch.net .

Seeking to take those mentally risky new ventures of life along with you,

Mike

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Good Neighbors are…Good!

It is a known fact and in my short, but not scientific, survey of asking around, people want good neighbors. Nobody wants to live next to a noisy, nosey, inconsiderate, mean, spiteful, angry, messy neighbor. Oh, but they are out there. Yet, the truth is most all of us want ‘good’ neighbors and desire that neighborly feel where we know those who live around us and they know us. Where people know names, share and receive a helping hand, show and give genuine concern, and swap stories as we chit-chat in the driveway or on the front porch. I know of people who have moved just searching for that good neighbor experience. They want to be in a place where a good neighbor policy is both practiced and expected. So what does it take to be a good neighbor? Let me suggest a few ways found in God’s Word the Bible.

A good neighbor cares and shows some compassion. In answering the question of ‘who is my neighbor’, Jesus told a story of someone who had compassion on another enough to help them in their time of need. The story is called “The Good Samaritan’ Luke 10:29-37. Jesus ends the story challenging us all that good neighbors are compassionate.
Luke 10:36-37 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Mercy is compassion and compassion moves us to help. It’s noticing the needs and, if possible, seeking to meet those needs from mowing lawns, to helping with a project, to loaning tools, to taking a moment and asking about their day. It far too easy to be so busy we don’t make or take the time to notice and lend a hand.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Who can you share a bit of mercy or compassion with today?

There is a major insurance company with a slogan that says, “like a good neighbor…” You probably can finish the sentence as it ends with ‘…is there.’ Yes, a good neighbor is present and responsive with mercy and care, not withholding help.
Proverbs 3:27-28 27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. 28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it” – when you have it with you.
Yes, good neighboring takes time, energy, and effort. Most everything worthwhile does. Yet it is well worth it! Study after study has proven that communities where people are known, where help is given, where there is an investment of time and attention, there is a greater fulfillment and joy in life. According to John McKnight and Peter Block in their book, “The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods,” as people seek to connect with their neighbors and be that good neighbor, there is greater sense of security and safety, better health, and more care. The Bible encourages us to be present and be kind, and certainly not to be mean.
Proverbs 3:29-30 29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. 30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
So be kind, and not mean or augmentative.

Being a good neighbor is to treat people like you would like to be treated. It’s that ‘golden rule’ we were taught as kids.
Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
The climate of these actions is a love and respect for others
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
1 Peter 4:8-9 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

So be that good neighbor and add to the community we live in. See, if we want to create a better world, it’s not going to come through a program, a policy, a proposition, or even a politician. It’s going to come as we act like Jesus and be that good neighbor He challenged us to be. Why not try? You could start a movement on your block that could really make a difference.

Church is a great place to learn and grow at being good neighbors. If you are not already connected to a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches in either Los Alamitos or Garden Grove. All this year we are seeking to learn from the Bible how to live out the love of Jesus and we would love for you to join us. Our website has all the information you would need. www.cypresschurch.net .

Seeking to be good… as a good neighbor along with you,
Mike

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