When Love Runs

One Sunday afternoon my wife and I were on our way to a park for one of our branch church’s anniversary celebrations. We parked the car and, seeing the bounce house and a gathering of people, we started heading across the grass to that part of the park. As I was scanning the crowd for familiar faces, my wife noticed one of our kids, their spouse and our grandson. So I yelled out to or grandson and he started to look around, his mom pointed him in my direction and he started running towards me, yelling, ‘Papa, Papa!’, and I instinctively went running towards him calling his name. I scooped him up and swung him around as we were hugging he asked, ‘And Mormor?’ (Mormor is Swedish for mother’s mother and what all our grandkids call my wife) and then he proceeded to tell me about all his adventures of the day so far. Now, I’m not sure what was going through his little mind that moved him to run towards me, but I know I was compelled to run because of the deep love I have for him. Like with all my grandsons their mere presence ignites love-motivated actions in me. Sure, it was not all that dignified, nor all that graceful to see a guy my age break into a run, but I had to. Love does that. Sometimes love runs.

 

It reminds me of a story Jesus told and recorded in Luke 15:11-32. The story has been given a number of titles; The Prodigal Son, The Tale of Two Sons, The Lost Sons. The story does speak of a man’s two sons, but actually is more about the father and his love-motivated run. The story goes like this…

Luke 15:11-12   11 And He (Jesus) said, “There was a man who had two sons.  12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.   

Now this younger son goes off and squanders his resources and comes up alone, starving, and in great need. Coming to his senses he remembers his father’s house and even how well his father’s employees are treated. This younger son devises a plan to return to his father’s house, to at least be one of his workers. As the dejected son makes his way home, his father notices and runs towards him and wraps him up in his arms.

Luke 15:20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Love does that. Love runs to restore relationships. Love sprints to reconnect. Love races to reconcile. Yet there is something that holds us back from love. It’s found in the story of the other son. See, the father, so taken by the love of the this lost son now found, accepted him back, brought him into honor, and even threw a party for him. Love does that. Love runs to forgiveness. Love sprints to mercy. Love races to compassion. But the older son was struck with envy and a pride that he should be most favored, or only favored. So he refused to accept this younger son’s return and would not enter the father’s house. So love moved the father to run out to him.

Luke 15:28  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

The story ends with no resolution. We don’t know if the older son every embraced the father’s love, but we do know the love of the father moved the father to run.

 

This is a beautiful story about God and His active love towards humanity. God loves all of us and continues to run towards us and after us. He wants so much for us to connect with Him, to come into His house and enjoy life in relationship with Him. This is really what the Easter season is all about. God running towards us providing the way and opportunity for us to connect to Him through what Jesus did on the cross, then verified by Jesus’ resurrection.

 

I encourage you to consider God’s great love and explore Jesus this Easter season. Church is a great place to learn about Jesus, especially over Easter week (April 9-16). If you do not have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to ours. We have a wonderful Easter week planned with special services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net . We would love for you to experience God’s love with us.

 

Running with Love along with you,

 

Mike

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The Nervous Thrill of Letting Go

I remember as a kid gripping the pool deck in fear, yet wanting so bad to enjoy swimming. So, I would move hand over hand pulling myself around the pool ever-eyeing all those other kids, some even younger, splashing about, jumping off the diving board and stroking effortlessly across the pool. I wanted so badly to swim, but this powerful fear kept me glued to the deck. That fear would turn in to great frustration and even terror when someone would not move as I was inching my way around the poolside, so careful not to lose my grip and there having to take that lunge of faith to reach around them. I hated being so scared and wondered if I would ever be able to let go. I tried a few times in the shallow end were I could touch the bottom of the pool, but that lack of confidence kept me in arms reach of the poolside. I was pathetic, but held out hope that somehow this fear would loosen enough for me release my grip and least try. It happened one summer day, sitting disgusted with myself on the pool deck, watching everyone having so much fun. I let go of my fear slid into the pool and launched out into the deep end.

 

Fear has a way of gripping us and holding us back. Now, I am not talking about that fearful respect of the water or fire, or dangerous ventures where healthy fear keeps us from major harm. The fear I am talking about is that debilitating fear that holds us back from growth and experiencing all that God has for us in life. Because, like learning to swim most any worthwhile, life-challenging, growth creating venture takes the risk of overcoming fear. What if that relationship does not last? What if that new job turns more difficult than expected? What if the sacrifice is really difficult to learn that new talent? The list of ‘what ifs’ is endless. The clench of fear tightens and the poolside becomes more comfortable than the freedom of letting go.

 

God as a lot to say about the grip of fear…

Isaiah 41:10  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

God’s help is available if we are willing to turn towards Him and trust Him. God is amazing and wants us to enjoy the thrill of the life He has for us, but it does take us letting go of our entitled, self-focused notions and reach for Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7   5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

This ‘fear of the Lord’ is not an afraid fear, but a reverent respect that God is awesome, amazing, and all-powerful and deserving of obedient honor. It is the letting go of devotion to other things and being dedicated to God and His way of life. This reverence of God is also letting go of debilitating fear of our world with disease, cancer, the economy, government, wars, the future, what’s going to happen with our families and trust in a loving God who really does care for 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.

In an encounter with Jesus, a religious leader so desperate to save his little girl’s life came to Jesus, who had worked amazing miracles on others, might help is precious little girl. Jesus was on His way when work came it was too late. This man’s greatest fear was being realized. Yet Jesus said…

Mark 5:36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”  

You can read the full story in the Bible book of Mark 5:21-42. Belief in the Lord makes a difference.

Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

 

I am not sure what fears have gripped you, but I do know that letting go and swimming in the pool of God’s way of life is amazing!

 

Once I let go of that poolside I grew into a fairly good swimmer. Joined a swim team and even qualified for the Junior Olympics. I love the water and feel at home and free no longer held back by fear. I have felt that same way in my life with God.

 

Church is one of those places where we can let go and enjoy God. If you do not already have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to our church. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net .

 

Seeking that nervous thrill of letting go of fear along with you,

 

Mike

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The Empowerment of Love

It was just last night. Our Life Group (a small group of people that meet for Bible study and to enjoy a smaller community) met and we enjoyed a stimulating time looking through some passages of the Bible and talked and shared about the ups and downs of our lives. This group is an interesting, diverse group of some retirees, some young adults, some married, some single, and a bit of ethnic diversity thrown in. You would think that it would be difficult to find a sense of connectedness and friendship in such a diverse group, yet these people have chosen to love each other, and empowered by love there is community. Well last night one of the group expressed this love in a unique way with some very simple, yet love-empowered, words.

 

These love-empowered words happened like this: People were sharing their lives with some emotional depth. One of our group was prepared to share, but they were hesitant because they felt, in light of the depth of what had already been shared, their concern may not matter much. It was met with the comment, “If it concerns you, it matters.” What a validating and empowering comment! That person mattered, so what they shared, regardless of how trivial they felt it was, was important. Love empowers like that.

 

The Bible calls and challenges to love in this empowering way.

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

To honor is to esteem, to show preference, to care about their needs as well as our own. Honor is respect and acknowledging the value of another. Honor is being interested and learning people’s story.

Romans 12:16-18   16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.  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.

Living peaceably is not easy, however there is the beauty of community when we do.

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

Community is a connection that transcends ethnicity, gender, age, and life stage. It is a choice to engage in relationship and love.

1 Peter 3:8-9  8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

 

Love empowers. Why not use that power to bless others? Yes, you will be blessed as well. We as people have such an opportunity build up each other, encourage each other, and inspire each other. Why not today? Why not now?

 

Church can be a great place to find a group of people to connect with. If you do not already have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to our church and even check out visiting a Life Group. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net .

 

Seeking to engage empowering love along with you,

 

Mike

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Love One

I truly enjoy stories where a celebrity or someone important does something special for an individual. It is heartwarming when someone like Taylor Swift goes and visits a child in the hospital, or an elected official honors a family of a fallen soldier, or a Tom Hanks photo bombing a wedding and encourages a young couple. It’s the individual attention of expressing love to one person that really impresses me. Sure, many of these high profile people like Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and other use their wealth to do incredible, world-impacting, life-enhancing things. Yet, a story of love expressed to one individual is both encouraging. Inspiring and attainable.

 

I was a recipient of some individual encouragement and love from someone famous awhile back. In my regular study of influential people, I was doing a bit of reading about and by Mother Teresa. I was impressed by her devotion to God and her calling to serve the poorest of the poor. At that time I was taking a group of students to a poor area of New York and I wrote her expressing my appreciation, letting her know what we were doing, and enclosed a small donation. I did not think much of it, but a few weeks later I received a letter from out of the country and it was a note from Mother Teresa, written on a scrap piece of paper, from an old typewriter, and hand signed. I was blown away! Why would this world-renowned leader take the time to bless the likes of me? I was greatly encouraged, but also inspired to express love individually.

 

I was also moved by what she said in that note, “God has created us out of love, to love and to be loved. Let us spend our lives loving others as God loves each of us.”  God has loved us individually and still does. We are handcrafted by Him

Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.1 Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.    

God even knows the number of hairs on our head according to Matthew 10:30 (even if they are few).

Jesus washing the disciples feet, as John 13 records and shows Jesus’ individual love through the humbling task of the lowliest servant.

 

John 13:34-35  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.  35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As we are loved by the Lord, we are to love like Jesus, to love one, to love – one person at a time.

 

Sure, this can seem a bit overwhelming as we are not sure who and when or what actions to take. As well, if we are shyer this can seem like a huge ask. But think how wonderful it is when you are given some individual attention, where someone blessed you with some kind, gracious, individual loving affirmation. You could really bless someone!

 

So here is a challenge, look for an opportunity to love one, to love someone individually. Pick a person and write an encouraging note, give a small gift card. If you live close by take in their trash cans, share fruit from your fruit trees, or at least learn their names. If you know them and have some relationship with them bake them some cookies, take them to lunch, complement them, look them in the eye and affirm a quality you see in them. They will be blessed and so will you.

 

Church can be one of those gathering places where find someone to love, but also to be encouraged on how to love like Jesus. If you do not already have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to our church. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net . We would be blessed to connect with you.

 

Seeking to love one along with you,

 

Mike

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Get up! Get Up! GET UP!

One of my joys as a young father was to watch my son play soccer. Josh could run like the wind and as a midfielder he was constantly running (which was a good thing because that boy had a never-ending source of energy that he would unleash on his sisters if not on the pitch). Josh’s full-throttle intensity was a bit aggressive so his plays were spectacular and his falls were epic. Opponents therefore pushed and bit harder and he got knocked down to the ground. At first it was a bit shocking for him and he stayed down, sometimes getting discouraged. So I would yell from the sidelines, “Get up, Get Up, GET UP!” As an obedient son he popped up look at me and his coach for what do next and both of us would point and say, “Get in the game!”

 

After the games, as he would enthusiastically walk through rehearsing all his plays, asking, “Dad did you see when I got the ball and…” we would walk through much of the game. When we came to the part where he got pushed or shoved or tripped and knocked down he asked why I keep calling out to “Get up, Get Up, GET UP?” Because sometimes he said, he did not want to get up. He was tired, or discouraged that people were being mean, or frustrated with himself. Though I acknowledged those feelings, and we talked them through, I mentioned that the game was still on and right then it was time to get up. As we talked I suggested he could ask the coach to take him out for a bit, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He had to play and finish the game. I also mentioned that when you bounce up so fast you show your opponents and your fellow teammates that these setbacks will not hinder your play.

 

The reality is we all get pushed, shoved, tripped or knocked down all throughout life. Some are not as huge as others; a flat tire, a little cold, a bit of extra work from the boss. But some are take us right off our feet and slam us to the ground; a betrayal of friend or family member, an abusive boss or spouse, a job loss, cancer, death and maybe you have a few you could add to the list. Now, yes we need to process through these setbacks, grieve, and get help…but then… get up! It may be to a new normal but we are still in the game.

 

The Apostle Paul from the Bible had a number of set backs

2 Corinthians 11:25-27  25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  

Paul was knocked down quite a few times. But he got up! One issue that hit Paul hard was what he called ‘a thorn in his flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He pleaded with God to remove it, but God did not. Paul did not stay down, but got up.

2 Corinthians 12:9   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.

In a letter to the church in Philippi Paul said this…

Philippians 3:13-14   13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul got up. He could hear Jesus saying ‘Get up, Get Up, GET UP!’

 

I don’t know what has knocked you down or will trip you up but one way to encourage those around you and yourself, let along push back against an opponent, is to get up. Yes, get help and process through your feelings, but Get up…Get Up…GET UP! God still has you in the game and there are some major plays He wants you to make. Maybe even today!

 

Church can be a place where you get inspired to get up but also to help process through all the knock-downs of life. If you do not have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to our church. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net . We would love to help and encourage you!

 

Seeking to continue to get up and stay in the game along with you,

 

Mike

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Moved with Compassion

It was a few years back in another city. I was sitting at a stop light, waiting for the light to turn green, and noticed a commotion at the bus stop ahead. I first saw a few students huddling in a pack, pointing and laughing as they walked past the bus stop. As this little group avoided the area, with snickers and looks back, a car sped by and honked at someone or something at the bus stop and another car did the same. I was curious at what was causing the honking and jeering. Then another car came racing around the corner, parked with jerk just past the bus stop, and a woman rushed out of the driver’s seat. As well, two men came running across the street, descending on the bus stop. The light turned green, and as we all crept by, we saw the three people helping a man in a powered wheelchair that had fallen on its side. I decided to stop and help too, but they had mostly gotten him back up as I got there. He had evidently been yelling at those kids for some reason and did not notice he was heading off the curb. He was ok…still angry at the kids, but more embarrassed that we were making such a fuss. We all made sure he was ok as he asked us to ‘let him alone.’

 

This story came back to mind as I thought about how we tend to act towards each other. Sometimes we laugh at other’s misfortune, sometimes we sarcastically honk our comments and move on, sometimes we don’t even notice or just watch as we drive on, and other times we are moved with compassion to do something. What causes us to respond as we do?

 

If you are like most people, there is a desire to be a bit more compassionate. We all tend to want to be more empathetic and feel with someone in their difficult condition or circumstances. In that empathy, we want to help. We want to alleviate suffering in some way. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Why do you suppose we act the way we do?

 

I know in Jesus’ case, His love for people caused Him to be moved with compassion. We could learn a lot from Jesus about being moved with compassion.

Matthew 9:36 When He (Jesus) saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 14:14 When He (Jesus) went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Jesus saw people’s needs. His love for others moved His eyes outward. Jesus also did something about it. He took action. Do you love people enough to see them and be empathetic?

Mark 1:40-42   40 And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”  41 Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”  42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

Jesus’ love for people moved beyond the social stigmas (touching lepers was a social taboo) and cared about the people in the margins of life. Who are the margins in your community? They have a story. They have a name. Maybe they could use some compassion.

Matthew 20:30-34   30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”  31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”  32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”  33 They said to Him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”  34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him.

Jesus’ love for all people, including those with disabilities, caused Him to stop, even be interrupted and take a pause, to let His compassion move Him to help. I know we can’t help everybody and there are times we can’t stop, but shouldn’t there be times we do?

 

Our world, our communities, our homes could use some compassionate moves. Maybe from you?!? What if no one had stopped to help that guy in the motorized wheel chair?

 

Church can be a place where compassion is encouraged. If you do not have a church you regularly attend, please feel invited to our church. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net . We would love to have you connect with us.

 

Seeking to make some compassionate moves along with you,

 

Mike

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Be Intentional

I have heard an interesting and challenging word over the past few months. It has been used as a descriptive word of someone’s character or personality. It also has been a word to challenge someone to reach for their full potential and be an enhancement to life. The word is ‘intentional.’ I heard this word at a wedding where the couple was described as both being intentional with their love toward each other and in life. “I am going to be more intentional this year,” was the challenge I heard as someone was telling me one of their life goals. I also heard it of it from an employer looking for someone for their company who held the trait of intentionality.

 

At first, it would seem that this trait of being intentional should be a given. Couples are supposed to be deliberate in their love for each other. Employees are to be conscious of the tasks required of them and work with intent to complete those tasks. Going to school with the purpose of completing a degree, parenting with the purpose of raising kids to be responsible/purposeful people, and having plans we willfully seek to accomplish in life seems natural. Yet, all too often we can find ourselves just drifting, responding more to the currents of life than purposefully swimming toward a goal. We get caught up in the stresses of life and just exist rather than achieve life goals and life purposes.

 

Now sure, settling in for a time, floating down that lazy river is great, and sometimes needed, but so is a life of intentionality. There are amazing and phenomenal opportunities and experiences waiting for those who intentionally go after them. People learn to play the guitar, run a marathon, speak a new language, start a new business, have a new relationship, love deeper, run faster, and even lose weight, all by being intentional. Intentionality is good thing.

 

God is intentional! God was intentional in creating us, knitting us together in our mother’s womb as Psalm 139 says.

Psalm 139:13-14   13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

We are not a mistake or accident or unimportant. God intentionally created you, and you not only have value, but a purpose.

 

God is intentional in loving us. The whole Bible speaks of His great love.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God’s ‘steadfast love’ is a loyal, intentional love (see Romans 8:35-39). We are not abandoned or orphaned. We have a God who is present and would love for us to be intentional with knowing and relating to Him.

 

God was intentional in saving us from sin as 1 John 4:7-8 says. We are not a lost cause, but saved so we can live intentionally, with purpose. As well, God is intentional in guiding us if we trust in Him as Proverbs 3:5-7 says. So we are not stranded in life, left to wander.

 

So let’s be intentional with life. Let’s make things happen and be purposeful. Let’s be intentional in knowing God, soaking in His love, and discovering the purpose He created us for. Let’s also be intentional in being kind, seeking to bring out the best in others, laughing, smiling, participating, volunteering, giving people the benefit of the doubt, helping, being inquisitive, being curious, and seeking hope instead of fear. Let’s be intentional.

 

Another intentional move would be to attend church. Church is a great place to be deliberate in knowing God. If you do not have a church you regularly attend, let us be intentional and invite you to our church. Our website has information about our various campuses and online sermons: www.cypresschurch.net . We would love to connect with you.

 

Seeking to be intentional along with you,

 

Mike

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