You Matter!

I am amazed at how much I learn from my grandkids! I was out walking with one of them and he was noticing everything, “Papa look at the trees with all their leaves.” “Papa there’s a birdie.” “Papa” he said as he pointed to the sky with great enthusiasm “a plane”. “Papa, look, ants.” This discovery time was great and all, but it was impeding our trek to the park. As I reached for his hand to help guide him to the park he pulled away towards the ants and said, “I have to help the ants.” He was worried because they were crossing the sidewalk and he did not want them to get stepped on. He found a leaf and gingerly brushed them towards the grass. I tried to persuade him with all the fun he would have in the park, but he was determined with his rescue efforts. He handed me a leaf and asked me to help! I tried again to pull him away, but he was intent on completing his mission. So I joined in. Within a few minutes we diverted the ants back to the safety of the grass. My grandson got up and with a big satisfied smile, reached out for my hand and said, “Let’s go to the park now, Papa.”

 

As we were walking towards the park I was mulling over my grandson’s intensity to care for ants and that these ants really mattered to him. His care was greatest for what most people would call the least or insignificant or even pests. I did not even notice them, but he did and he helped me to see them and help them. My thoughts brought me to us as people and I wondered how many people feel insignificant, invisible, and even like pests? I’m sure many do. Yet, that is not how God sees us. He notices. He stops to rescue. We matter to Him. The Bible is jam-packed full of God’s truths about how we matter. Here are a few:

Psalms 86:15 But you, O Lord, are God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and My covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

The word ‘steadfast’ is a Hebrew word meaning loyal or committed love, not based on a condition or circumstance, but on God’s choice to love. In other words, we matter to God because He chose to love and esteem us. It’s a faithful and trustworthy love we can count on and rely on. God’s love is not something we earn, nor does He love us more if we act a certain way. That’s amazing love! You matter to God.

Song of Songs 2:4 He (God) brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love.

God’s sign over our lives is that we are greatly loved. You matter. The God of the universe has chosen to love you and me. Even though we are not very lovely at times and we have this genetic problem of sin (see Romans 3:23, Isaiah 59:2). Yet because of God’s love, He has even dealt with our issue.

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 for our sins.

‘Propitiation’ means atoning sacrifice. In other words, God sent Jesus out of love for us to deal with our issue of sin because we matter to God. Jesus went through an awful ordeal to cure us of our sin disease because we matter to Him.

Psalms 119:64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes!

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

We matter to God, but also each of us matters in the reaching out to others.

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

My grandson reminded me through this little moment with some little ants that we matter to God and our interaction matters to others. See, you matter!

 

One great place to be reminded of God’s great love and our calling towards others is church. If you do not 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. And yes, you matter to us!

 

Seeking to live in the truth that we matter along with you,

 

Mike

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The Strength in Hope!

We live around some amazing people! I am so impressed at the depth of character, the breath of kindness and humility, and their great strength in hope. They seem to have a never-ending supply of hope or huge emotional well of fresh hope to draw from. I was talking with a man a while back whose wife had been in a care facility due to her dementia and physical health. Despite the long daily drives, tedious feeding times, and the lack of communication that once was there, but was no longer and greatly missed, he had hope. Not hope she would be miraculously healed, though that hope was not excluded. His hope was a confidence that whatever the circumstance, however the difficulty or struggles, it would be all right!! I talked with another who lost their job and the though the job market seem bleak and after months of trying being overqualified and under-qualified, facing numerous rejection and hearing numerous times, “we went for the other applicant,” they still had hope. Not hope for an amazing job to appear, though that was part of the desire, but hope a drawn from a deeper well that gave them that peace that surpasses understanding.

 

I have seen the strength of hope empower the deflated, inspire the weary, comfort the downtrodden, revitalize the drained, embolden the discouraged, and renew the exhausted. Yes! Hope energizes, invigorates, exhilarates, pushes, rallies, refreshes, and gives courage! Drawing from the well of hope gives us strength to not continue the cycle of insults, hate, and anger but gives us the power to do good even in the face of evil.

1 Peter 3:9 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.

The deep well of hope is in the promise of God and from His Word, the Bible. The next few verses add to this well of hope…

1 Peter 3:10-12 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

 

Tapping into the emotional reservoir of hope gives us strength to not give up and keep going when we get sick, feel alone, things don’t go our way, or have set backs.

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.”

Our hope is in God who cares and loves us enough to be with us, and who will fight for us!

Deuteronomy 20:4 for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.

 

What is your hope in? I know for me, and many others the deep hope-reserve of faith in God gives the emotional strength to make it through life. What about you? There is strength in hope.

 

Church is a great hope-filling place. If you do not 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 exercise the strength of hope along with you,

 

Mike

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The Power of Choice

As a kid growing up, and even today, I was, still am enamored with people’s stories. I love to hear how they got to where they are. I love to know what made them make the choices they did and how come they are so successful in their business, so happy in their marriage, so sought after for their wisdom, so amazing as parents in raising great kids who are themselves incredible people, and what made them just an all around good person. I wanted to know what they knew so I could learn from their lives and seek to be all that God intended me to be.

 

I remember being challenged by one of my mentors who quoted Jesus, saying people are known by their produce – their fruit (see Matthew 7:15-20), a good tree producing good fruit, and a not-so-good tree producing not-so-good fruit. Of course I wanted, and want, to be that good tree with a life that reflects the grace, mercy, kindness and strength that Jesus the Christ did. So in searching out people whose lives seem to produce that good godly lifestyle that the Bible talks about, I discovered an amazing power they use, the power of choice.

 

The power of choice is the understanding that we will either enjoy the benefits of good choices or suffer the consequences of bad choices. As well, not to choose is a choice in itself. So is the choice to learn from past choices to make even better choices. A reality of life is we have been given a huge power, the power of choice. We have the power to make…

The choice to be kind or mean

The choice to love or hate

The choice to help or hurt

The choice let our speech be seasoned with grace or full of venom

The choice to be wise or foolish

The choice to persevere or give up

The choice of humility or pride

The choice of keeping our word or not

The choice of integrity or deceit

The choice to initiate or do nothing

Now some may say that others ‘make them’ say hurtful things, do foolish things, or be deceitful, yet each of us has been given the free will to choose most of our actions and most certainly our attitudes and our reactions. So what choices will you make this next year? Here we are at the beginning of a new year with opportunity to make new and renewed choices. As you think of some of the choices you will make this this next year, let me encourage you make choices in theses five areas, areas God has mentioned in the Bible.

 

Choose kindness, intentionally bring out the best in others, and think the best of them as well.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Choose to be helpful and find hope instead of fear.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

Choose wisdom and seek to be both inquisitive and curious.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

 

Choose to participate and not just spectate.

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.

Matthew 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Choose to know God more…

Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

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.

 

We have no idea of what might happen in the future, but utilizing the power of choice and choosing to follow God’s Word will yield good fruit. Why not give it a try? If you are already making good godly choices, then seek to step it up a notch. Attending church regularly can help. If you do not 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 exercise the power of choice along with you,

Mike

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It’s Time for Something New

For part of our Christmas gift to each other this year, my wife and I chose to renew our front yard landscaping. It was time. Our grass was very old and ingrown. My little palm trees that we planted when we first moved in were now encroaching on our entry way and roof. Many of our shrubs had surpassed their shelf life and we wanted something a bit more design orientated, something that would complement the look of our house. It was time for something new. So we acquired some help from an expert, created a plan and now our front landscaping is being renewed!

 

Renewal, restoration, revitalization, and renovation are good things, and it just so happens God has built into life a season of renewal and a time for something new into each year! In just a few days we will be experiencing that time as we make the annual transition from one year to another. It is a time to look back, appreciating the past year, and to look forward to making changes for the future. It’s time for something new.

 

Now sure, some changes will just happen: we get older, most things cost more, the seasons change, and our sports teams will experience both victories and defeats. Some change just happens, out of our control. However, there are many areas of life, like my front yard, where if we want renewal or revitalization, it is going to take some purposed action to experience something new. The truth is, for many areas of life, unless we initiate change, things will basically stay the same. So in what areas of your life are you saying it’s time for something new: maybe with your health (I know I could loose a few more pounds and eat a bit better…but I really like donuts!! Oh, I had this amazing apple-fritter the other day…sorry got a bit carried away), but maybe this next year your something new could be a new hobby, a new friend, deeper relationships, a new vacation place, reading a few new books, trying some new restaurants, cooking some new foods, trying that new donut, finding a new creative expression. What new something are you thinking of?

 

Here are four questions and some Bible verses that help me move forward as I seek the fun of this New Year and the opportunity to do something new.

 

What do I appreciate about last year?

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

1 Chronicles 16:11-12 Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles and the judgments He uttered,

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Take a moment to appreciate the highs and lows of last year and a God who loves you and cares for you (see Psalm 86:15, Zephaniah 3:17, John 3:16)

 

What am I looking forward to this next year?

Isaiah 43:18-19 Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Philippians 3:13-14 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

What am I worried about?

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

What is the plan to accomplish the new you want to do?

Proverbs 13:16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

 

Church can be a place to help in our renewal. If you do not 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 accomplish something new along with you, Mike

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Let Love Motivate

I was out doing some Christmas shopping and noticed a person intently looking and exploring the aisles. This person had another with her who appeared not as excited to shop, looking a bit disinterested, with loud sighs and a few eye rolls. This reluctant companion at one point said, “Come on, just pick something, I’m sure your Nana will love whatever you get her.” The apparent gift-searching other stopped and looked her companion in the eyes and said with a great smile and wide eyes, “Yes Nana will love anything I get her and even say ‘I shouldn’t have’, but I LOVE HER and want to find something special that in just a small way will let her know how special she is to me.” “OK”, the companion said with a bit of smirk, “How about this,” and pulled out a funny looking hat. They both laughed and went on with their quest.

 

As I went about my own shopping-task, I, however, was a bit convicted. See, I was looking more to check off my gift purchase than letting love motivate. I was more interested in getting it done and getting on with my growing list of things to do than in letting my love for whom I was getting the gift motivate my purchase. Now sure, love means more than a gift or even the effort put into the gift, but when love motivates, a task becomes a quest, a job becomes a joy, a chore becomes an adventure.

 

The Bible challenges us to let love motivate.

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

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.

‘Hospitality’ in this Bible verse means to show kindness to strangers. In other words, choose to love people and let that love motivate acts of kindness. Like one of the members of our church this past week was out buying her Christmas tree and let love motivate her to buy a Christmas tree for a stranger. That one act of love greatly encouraged that family, but even more the one who chose to let love motivate. Jesus expressed this truth that Apostle Paul revealed in Acts 20:35

Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

There is a great blessing when love motivates us to give.

 

Jesus has challenged us to love when He said in Matthew 22:39 that next to loving God, we are to love our neighbor.

John 13:34 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.

Jesus let love motivate Him to squeeze Himself into the tininess of a human, to be born and live among us (see Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus also let love motivate Him to go to the cross to pay our sin debt, bringing us out of the shame of our iniquities.

1 John 4:10-11 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

So let’s let love motivate this Christmas time!

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Sure there are a lot of extra tasks to complete this holiday season, but when we let love motivate, the task can be more of an adventure. Why not give it a try?

 

I know we at Cypress Church seek to let our love for God and love for the people in our area motivate us to do the ministry and programs we do. I’m sure other churches have a similar heart. Church is a great place to be encouraged to let love motivate. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches this Christmas season. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. It would be great to connect with you.

 

Seeking to let love motivate more along with you,

Mike

 

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Space-Creating Opportunities the Christmas

My wife Kristi and I were pulling down our Christmas decorations this past week, (yes, I know it’s a bit late, but our 6th grandchild was so excited to be born, she came 5 weeks early) and as we were stacking the boxes down in the garage, we noticed a number of items we have not used in years. Some are nostalgic, some were broken and in the rush of getting things out and then put away they have not been fixed are or thrown away, mostly because there is no time to sort or fix or even chuck. As different boxes were handled, we made comments, “We need some time to sort through these things…Oh I can fix this, but just can’t seem to find the opportunity…We really should see if the kids would like some of their special ornaments…OK, we have got to get rid of this, we have not used it years, maybe as we put them all away.” We seem to rarely have space to organizing the Christmas décor.

 

Not only is it difficult to find space for organizing the Christmas décor, it is equally challenging to find time to purchase gifts (what did we do before on-line shopping!!) or attending festive traditions and family gatherings or feeling fully present at church to truly soak in the deeper meanings of this season! It leads to the question, are there any space creating opportunities out there?

 

I do believe the Bible has a few space creating of opportunities we can apply this Christmas. Let’s talk about two. The first is to connect, to connect with God. Jesus was teaching some His followers who were a bit frustrated and worried with how they were going to organize life. Jesus encouraged them and us with this…

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

To seek the kingdom of God is to seek to know and follow Jesus. When we do, life aligns as we seek to live life under Jesus’ leadership and influence. Connecting with God therefore creates space to for peace, joy, fulfillment, and love. How could you connect with God this Christmas?

 

Connecting with others is another space creating opportunity.

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.

When we connect with others there is space for improved protection, greater encouragement, extending belonging, and exponential production. We are better together. Our connection with others creates space. The reality is, we were created as social beings. Yes some more social than others, but we are all meant to connect in some way to others. Sure, it is easy to feel invisible – lots of people do – but what could we each do reach out and connect with others?

 

The next space creating opportunity is to give. Yes the giving of gifts, time, money, attention, talents, and resources actually creates space. In an online article from the Chicago Tribune entitled, “Be generous: It’s a simple way to stay healthier” quotes Stephen G. Post, founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York to say, “Volunteering moves people into the present and distracts the mind from the stresses and problems of the self. ” As well Posts reports, “Many studies show that one of the best ways to deal with the hardships in life is not to just center on yourself but to take the opportunity to engage in simple acts of kindness.” Giving of our time creates space for well-being and coping with the stresses of life.

 

The article goes on to quote Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics and Psychology at Duke University who says, “If you are a recipient of a good deed, you may have momentary happiness, but your long-term happiness is higher if you are the giver.” It is better to give than receive. Jesus put it this way…

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.”

Now, there are all kinds of opportunities and ways to give during the holidays, why not try a few?

 

My Christmas decorations are going to continue to invade my attic space unless I do something about it. This year my plan is to take some space creating measures. I am also going to seek to make a greater connection with God and others and to find some more opportunity to give. What about you?

 

Church can also be a great space creating opportunity. If you do not 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. It would be fun to connect with you.

 

Seeking to create those space-making opportunities along with you, Mike

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Making Room this Christmas

Why is it that we are so busy and impacted this time of the year? Ok, yes there is the shopping for gifts, planning for those special holiday gatherings, decorating, office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, and the many city, community, and church special events. We can add to the mix the traditions we desire to keep and those new customs we are planning add to our celebrations. It makes for a busy time of year where it’s difficult to find room to enjoy it all and certainly does not leave much space to soak in the reason for the season. We get caught up in the whirlwind of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and hang on until it’s all over.

 

My wife Kristi and I were talking while driving to care for one of our grand children, after just rushing home from our jobs, wolfing down our dinner, wondering, “How did our life get so full.” We were not complaining and were excited to spend time with our little darlings, but realizing every moment of our day is filled and there is not much space to enjoy it all, let alone savor the moments we are in. We know much of this is due to our ever-expanding family. We went from three kids to six as they each married one summer. Then each couple had a child, adding three more. This three became six as this past year each couple had another child. So yes with the blessed enlargement of our family comes the joy of making room. Love has motivated us to make room and find a new balance.

 

Love is what Christmas is about. Christmas is about God’s great love for humanity, a love that sent us His Son.

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.

Jesus came to save us from a terrible condition that stops people from being what they were created to be, holds humanity back from connecting to God, and keeps us all out of heaven. Jesus came to rescue us from all this.

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

See it was love that came down to help, care, lead, guide, and deal with humanity’s sin condition (see Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23).

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.

God found room to love us. In the same way love can help us in finding room this Christmas for what matters.

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

 

This world needs good people like you to find room this Christmas to love others: to interact with your neighbors, bless a person in need, invite a friend to church, help someone on your street with a project, be extra nice to a cashier or employee you encounter, to surprise a friends/co-worker/teacher/public servant with a gift card or word of thanks, and I’m sure you can add other ways to love others to this list. These good works make a difference. They not only brighten people’s day, but creates space for the great love and joy of this time of the year.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

So let God’s great love for you help you in finding room this Christmas. You may discover the best Christmas ever!

 

Church at Christmas is a great place to soak in and be reminded of God’s great love. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Each Sunday this December we are going through a Bible teaching series entitled “Finding Room This Christmas.” Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. We would love to share a inspiring moment with you.

 

Find room this Christmas along with you,

Mike

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