Game On – It’s a Team Thing

Psalms 133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

When I was in high school (Helix High School in La Mesa, CA,) I was on the water polo team. I was not a water polo player, but I was a swimmer (went to the Junior Olympics as an elementary kid for my breaststroke, but loved the IM and medley relay), and my freshman year they recruited a bunch of us to water polo. I was not that good, but we pulled together and did well as a team. Honestly, it was different for me, as I was not used to this ‘team’ sport. Swimming is more of an individual sport, and though the team encourages you on, it’s just you against others. With water polo, it’s all about working together, knowing where your fellow teammates are and communicating. I can still hear coach yelling out, “Talk to each other!” We eventually got the hang of it, with a slap of the water to call for the ball, to a look, to quick move to the side, to calling out ‘help’ when we needed someone to pass to. All this took practice, running through drills, and time in the water together. But it also took trust that each guy was working as hard as the next to do our part so we could score goals. Some guys, myself included, loved to take shots and get those fun stats of high-scorer and we would hog the ball or take a shot when someone else had a better angle. Being a team meant we humbled ourselves and sacrificed our pride. All of this made the game fun and we did quite well, for to go far in this game was to work the team thing!

 

In the game of life, yes, there is much that is of an individual nature, but God never intended for us to go it alone. First off, if we so choose, God will always be with us.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

That’s an amazing promise from God! Actually, all through the Bible God let’s us know He loves us, likes, us, and finds joy in being in relationship with us.

Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

 

God also intended us to team up with others.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil, 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! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We need each other not only to bring out our best, but also to help us when we trip up. We all have issues that trip us up. We get sick. We get hurt by others. We make mistakes. We get prevailed against. We lose a job, a friend, or a loved one. We get cancer. We get into relationship trouble, and the list goes on. When those things happen, who are your teammates?

 

Now this team thing takes effort and some real work. We have to be humble, willing to sacrifice, and not be so self-focused. Here are some ways to practice this team thing for life…

Colossians 3:12-15 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

 

Too much in life separates and isolates. It just makes sense to do the team thing. How about you?

 

Church can be a great place to learn more about God’s desire to connect with us, but also how to team better with others. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are continuing a teaching series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. There is even a link to a daily devotional that you might enjoy.

 

Working on the team thing in life along with you,

 

Mike

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Game On – Love Extravagantly

This past week I had the enormous honor to officiate a wedding. As a pastor, I have enjoyed this privilege often. It is a true blessing and an amazing joy to share this very special moment with two people in love and around the celebration of a love declared and a love promised. There was so much happiness and delight surrounding this event with family and friends. It truly was a pleasure to be included. One element of a wedding that always inspires and encourages me is the extravagant, yet appropriate, way this love is revealed. This couple and their family and friends loved extravagantly as they put out the efforts to not only attend and give gifts, but actively participate in the creativity and meaningful details put into this event. This tastefully extravagant love is seen in the coordinated decorations, the beauty and meaning of the venue, the fun little snacks provided, the stunning and fragrant flowers, the artistic and eloquent signs with beautiful expressions of love, the personal handmade, handcrafted items made just for this moment, and just for this couple. Lots of time, effort, and, yes, money went into the planning and experience of this day. Why? Because love is worthy of a bit of extravagance and the sacrifice and effort it takes. Now sure, to express extravagant love will look differently from person to person. I know I have been involved in what some would call a more simple wedding, yet the expression of extravagant love was just as vibrant and just as beautiful as any other wedding. So, what are some key components to loving extravagantly?

 

The Bible has many great examples of extravagant love. One is a very strange story found in John 12:1-8. It is the story of a person named Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with some very expensive perfume. It’s kind of an awkward incident as Mary takes some very costly perfume, lovingly spreads it over Jesus’ feet, and wipes off the excess oils with her long hair. It was not just a dab of scented oils, but about 11-12 ounces…extravagant! Actually, its cost was worth about a year’s wages…even more extravagant! Extravagant love costs. It costs time, energy, effort, and, yes, money. Too often we are cheap with love, wanting to expend as little as we can and make it as convenient as possible. Yet, sometimes expressing love ought to cost. In seeking to express his extravagant love to God, King David of the Bible said this…

2 Samuel 24:24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.

 

Extravagant love costs, but this kind of love is also unconventional. In our awkward story in John 12:1-8, what Mary did was socially uncomfortable as it involved feet and the undoing of her hair. Most women in that day and culture kept their hair up in public. But because of Mary’s great love for her Lord and Leader, she was willing to be a bit unconventional and let her hair down out of love, using it like a rag. Now, this whole scene could be looked down upon (actually one of the disciples did look down on it, read the story and you will see who that was and why). Yet, it was out of extravagant love, for this kind of love is unconventional. It is a bit eccentric, maybe seen by others as excessive, even unusual, strange, or odd. Yet it is authentic and real.

Romans 12:9-10 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

The word ‘genuine’ in this Bible verse means sincere or authentic. It also means to be to so pure it is without hypocrisy, saying that the love we choose to give is of such a quality that its value, its worth, its shine is so pure that its significance is irrevocable. Mary’s expression of love was genuine, though unconventional. Mary could express this costly, unconventional, extravagant love because she had experienced that love from Jesus himself, a love available to each of us today!

John 13:34 A new commandment I (Jesus) give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

One of the ways we can get our game on and grow in faith is to love extravagantly. Yet, extravagant love costs and includes some sacrifice and sometimes being a bit unconventional. When that love is expressed from a genuine heart, it’s both life giving and inspiring. Why not give it a try!?!

 

Church can be a great place to learn of Jesus’ extravagant love. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are continuing a teaching series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. There is even a link to a daily devotional that you might enjoy.

 

Seeking to love extravagantly along with you,

 

Mike

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Game On – The Power of Curiosity

1 Thessalonians 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

 

I remember as a kid I had an insatiable curiosity. I wanted to know about everything and anything. Why do some plants grow great in one area and not in others? What holds an atom together? Why can’t people get along? What is love? Why do some people choose to be hurtful to others? How does a magnet work? Why does most every known society on earth have some form of faith? Do worms yawn? Over the years, I have gained many answers to my inquiries, but that bent towards curiosity continues to compel me to find answers.

 

Now, sometimes that curiosity got me into trouble. Like the time I touched a live wire on some electrical appliance I chose to take apart because I was curious as to how it worked. Yes, it was still plugged in! Let’s just say I gained a new respect for electricity and how to make sure all power is off and unplugged when I work on an electrical appliance. Curiosity can lead to more than just a little electrical shock. Curiosity was and continues to be an enticing opportunity for people to get led astray from God’s good way and His amazing plans (see Jeremiah 29:11, John 10:10) for our lives.

James 1:14-15 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Proverbs 27:20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

So, yes, that phrase “curiosity killed the cat” can be true if it leads us away from God and His great plans for our lives.

 

Yet, curiosity can be a great encouraging force to move us on in faith. Curiosity can strengthen our belief in God. I know for me, coming from a university professor’s home where my curiosity was welcomed and encouraged, I want to understand and gain more knowledge. I had not heard much of God in our home, but once I did, I sought to know, learn, and understand. The Bible encourages us this way.

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever!

Amen.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

Philippians 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

God wants to be curious about Him and His way of life and to let that interest move us to know more.

Proverbs 2:3-6 Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Much of our questions and desires to know God and His way of life can be found in the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

So maybe scratch that itch of curiosity of God and look into His revelation of Himself, the Bible. You may become more and more convinced of Him and His way of life, finding answers to those deeper curiosities you have in life.

 

Church can be a great place to know God more and to find answers to some of those questions we have of Him and life. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are continuing a new series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. There is even a link to a daily devotional that you might enjoy.

 

Seeking to satisfy my curiosity of God and faith along with you,

 

Mike

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Game On – The Power of Experience

I was making a purchase the other day, and as they handed me the receipt, the store clerk called my attention to a survey link at the bottom of the receipt that they would like me to fill out online. The survey was to share my impressions of my shopping experience, and hopefully give a favorable report. Has that ever happened to you? People wanting your input, the impressions from your experience? Disney goes to great lengths to get their guest’s (aka customer’s) insights, according to the Disney Institute’s book Be Our Guest. The book explains the power of a guest’s experience and how important it is for their organization to listen to the people who come to enjoy their entertainment. Walt Disney was quoted in the book (p. 33) making it clear: “You don’t build it for yourself. You know what people want, and you build it for them.” This is the power of experience. This is one of the reasons why, all over the Disney resorts, there are surveyors asking, “a few quick questions.” Experiences are powerful and they are the reason why there are surveys, questionnaires, and testimonies.

 

Learning from another’s experience is one of the ways to get our game on and grow in life. See, God’s desire for us in our own personal game of life is that we would grow in faith.

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

As we grow, it’s helpful to hear and learn from others’ experience. The Bible is packed full of stories of peoples’ faith experience. Like in 1 Samuel 17:1-58 where, David, a lowly shepherd boy, faces the giant Goliath and actually triumphs! What an incredible testimony of trust in God. David’s experience is powerful as it inspires us to face our giants. The experience of Daniel in Daniel 6:1-27 is also powerful. Daniel faced unjust treatment from others due to his faith and was thrown in a lion’s den to face certain death, yet God miraculously spared his life. Now, God does not always hold back suffering and pain, yet Daniel’s story is a great testimony of hope in God.

 

There is also another great story of the power of experience found in John 9:1-41 where Jesus heals a man who was born blind. To the amazement of family and those who knew this man, it was incredible. No one had ever performed a miracle like this and, to the religious leaders who were trying to discredit Jesus, this was an unmistakable verification of Jesus being the long awaited Messiah (Christ). In seeking to find some nuance to diffuse the power of this experience, these religious leaders questioned the blind man. The blind man’s testimony was undeniable.

John 9:24-25 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner (speaking of Jesus trying to discredit Jesus).” He answered, “Whether He is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  

Wow! What power in this once-blind man’s experience: powerful for the once-blind man, powerful to those around him, and powerful for us to read about.

 

I know I first was introduced to faith through the testimony of my friend. I saw how Jesus had made a difference in his life and thought Jesus could make a difference in my life as well. Now my own personal experience has continued to be powerful in my own life as I continue to grow in knowing God more and seeking to live life His way. What about you?

 

Church can be a great environment, not only to learn of others’ amazing faith experiences, but also to grow in our own experience. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are continuing a new series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. We would love to learn from your life experiences.

 

Seeking to grow though the power of experience along with you,

 

Mike

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Game On – Connect with Others

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 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!

 

I was heading out to lunch today and had asked around the office if anyone would like to go with me. Being an over the top extrovert, I rarely like going anywhere alone. Some were gone, some were tied up in meetings, some were busy with a project, and some had brought their own lunch, so I took off to grab a quick bite. As I waited for my fish tacos (Taco Tuesday!!), I noticed a number of people, like me, eating alone. Actually, as I have ventured to our local lunchtime restaurants, I have noticed many people eating alone. Now sure, some are like me and asked around for someone to come along and no one was available. So, for that day they were a ‘single luncher.’ And I’m sure some want to be alone (hard for us extroverts to understand). Yet, I have been noticing as I am out at lunch, there are more and more ‘single lunchers.’ I wonder if they really want to enjoy time out alone or would they enjoy connecting? In an online poll conducted by the “Campaign to End Loneliness” in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that half of adults had not made a new friend in “a long time.” Their reasons were that their busy lives inhibited them from connecting with others. In addition, the poll discovered that moments of connection such as small talk in public places or smiling at people breaks down perceived divisions. The poll also communicated that these small connections are a way to tackle loneliness. You can read the full article and watch a very cute but inspiring video at https://scroll.in/video/878780/.

 

Even though some of us do like to be alone at times, most people do crave connection. We are social creatures, created by a relational God who not only wants us to relate to Him…

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

But God also wants us to connect with others.

Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the

household of faith.

Hebrews 10:24-25 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.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Yes, it’s being nice, trying a little chit-chat, small talk, and trying to treat others as you want to be treated.

Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

 

The encouragement is clear in this game we call life: connect with others.

1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

 

Actually, to show hospitality is to be kind to strangers. Denis Estimon was a new kid at school and knew how lonely it felt to eat alone, so he started a club called “We Dine Together” where the members of that club sit with fellow students who are eating alone and connect with them. His story was captured by CBS news awhile back (you can find his moving story here: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/so-no-student-eats-alone/). What an impact we could have if we sought to be more inclusive and intentionally connect and include others. We may even help people not feel so lonely; we may even find a new friend. Game on; let’s connect with others.

 

Church is a great place to connect with others and learn how to reach out to others. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are in the beginning of a new series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. We would love for you to connect with us.

 

Seeking to connect with others along with you,

 

Mike

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Game On – Taking the Initiative in Faith

I was at a park for one of our grandkid’s birthdays and enjoying our older grandsons playing on all the fun structures. It was a joy to observe imaginations ignite as spontaneous games and fun erupted in the midst of kids swarming onto the play structures. It was so fun! I love seeing the elation of kids as they play. They are most often friendly, inclusive, helpful, kind, and have this wonderful trait of wanting everyone to join in on the game and have fun. We adults could learn a lot from them. I wonder where, and why, many seem to have lost these wonderful interactive traits. Anyway, as I was witnessing this festival of fun, I noticed some kids right in the thick of it all. They had jumped in with all fours. One kid saw the group gathering to create some great game and launched himself into the middle yelling, “INNNN COOOOOMMMMMING!” However, some kids were not choosing to jump in and did not initiate at all. They were cautious, stepping away from the group, some even hiding behind a parent or a convenient playground pole. One of the kids who seemed to be organizing the game noticed one of the kids being cautious and invited them to come play. The cautious kid seemed to want to, but was reluctant. But noticing how much fun everyone was having, he ran off and joined in. I smiled and thought, “That’s how it is with life and faith.”

 

See, God in His sovereign plan has created us(See Psalm 139:13-17) and brings us into life. From the time we were born and all through our personal game of life, God has given us the power to take the initiative to engage life and life with Him. This life God created for us was not intended to be some set of unrelated circumstances where we float on the current of the day dealing with whatever comes our way. No, God has a purpose and plan in mind.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Life is like those games we play as kids, or board games, or video games where there is a purpose, guidelines, and instructions along the way. Life, like games, is a whole lot of fun. Sure, there are ups and downs along the way. Life is like that, and so is life with a faith in God. The key is to be like that little kid and jump in, to take the initiative in faith and explore the life God created us to live. It could be just what you are looking for.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

That abundant life is what we were created to live. Again, not free from difficulty or tough times, but a life full and hopeful even in the rough times, a life with deep love, a great sense of purpose, significance, and a whole lot of fun.

 

Now, once we have stepped into faith we still are to take the initiative.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

 

I know faith is a bit mysterious, yet it’s not all that complicated. We have an amazing God who created us in love and wants to walk with us through the ups and downs of life. In all this, God wants us to take the initiative to fulfill the purpose He created us for and have fun along the way.

2 Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort (take the risky initiative) to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

So taking the initiative in faith, let’s jump in and explore faith in God, or at least continue to move forward in our exploration. Like that little kid who joined in on the fun, there is an amazing life God has for us.

 

Church is a great place to learn about faith and this amazing life God has for us. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. We are just starting a new series walking through the Bible book of John called “Game On – The Thrill of Taking Life to the Next Level.” Our website has all the information you would need: www.cypresschurch.net. We would love for you to join in with us.

 

Taking the initiative in faith along with you,

 

Mike

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The Wisdom of Play and Laughter

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

 

Yes, there is great wisdom in play, laughter, and fun. According to the online article ‘The Importance of Play’ from Parents.com taken from Parents Magazine, “Play is so important in child development that it’s been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.” There have been numerous studies revealing that play, laughter, and fun increase brain activity, helps set patterns for problem solving, is beneficial to our physical and emotional health, releases stress, pushes away depression, builds social ties, and so much more. But play is not just a human right for kids. Adults need play as well. That is one of Dr. Stewart Brown’s encouragements. Dr. Brown actually founded the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, California and encouraged people to include play everyday and all through life. In the Washington Post article ‘Why it’s Important for Grown-Ups to go Play’, Dr. Brown explains, “What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.” The Post article complements the Parents.com article and other related studies encourage us to continue to play all through life. Yes, we all need that healthy balance between work and play, but we can’t forget to do both.

 

A few weeks ago, we had the joy to take one of our grandsons to Disneyland for a time to play together. It was a blast! We all were having fun riding rides, eating fun foods, laughing at the characters, and enjoying the ‘happiest place on earth!’ I know for me, having been dealing with some stresses, it was a joyful release as the tensions of life melted away with the smiles and laughter of our grandson.

 

God intended for us to play, laugh, and have fun.

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

To rejoice is to shout out enthusiastically, like the squeal of delight as kids run to the swings, or the shouts of elation when our sports team makes a great play. Rejoicing is part of play, laughter, and fun. What could you rejoice in today? To be glad is a choice to be cheerful, a choice to brighten up. It’s the choice to find the fun and joy in enjoyable activities. Dr. Brown would say remember what brought you joy as a kid and start there. What’s something you could be glad in? It does not have to be an extensive or expensive vacation. In that Washington Post article, it sighted that soccer pro David Beckham is said to play with Legos to control his stress and former British Prime Minister David Cameron chooses to be glad and decompress by playing the video game Angry Birds!

 

Life should not be all work or all play. King Solomon of the Bible, known for his wisdom, explained in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there will be moments and times in life for both difficulty and delight…

Ecclesiastes 3:4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

These moments don’t always just fall upon us. Sometimes, actually most of the time, we need to choose to dance or play or have fun. What is noticeable as explained in the “Importance of Play’ article is that the time of active play for kids is decreasing. I would say it is for many adults as well. We live in a very stressful, pressure-driven world where we can easily say we have no time to play. Yet, the challenge here is to make time and take time to play, laugh, and have fun. There is some great wisdom in this.

 

I think church is fun, and I tend to laugh a lot in and around church. Maybe you could, too. If you don’t already have a church you regularly 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 the wisdom of play, laughter, and fun along with you,

 

Mike

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