Attitude Makes a Difference!

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

 

This past week, we had our house painted. It was long overdue as the paint was peeling in parts, faded, and just looking rather dingy. Actually, it was a little embarrassing, as most everyone could see the house needed some paint. Having finally saved up enough to cover the job, we sought recommendations and painters who could do all the extras needed.

 

Out of the number of companies and painters we looked into, one came over with a bit of a hurried air about him. At each turn of the house, he kept mentioning how difficult it would be and what work I would need to do so he could paint (move things, purchase things, prepare things). His attitude that this job was problematic and his expressions (he said numerous times, “Oh that’s going to be difficult!” “That’s going to be a lot of work.”) had me feel this job was overwhelming. It made me question whether this was a technique to soften me to a higher bid, but it also caused a question in wondering if this was just too much for him, or if he really wanted the job. As well, I was a bit overwhelmed with all the things I had to do if we chose to go with him. His bid was fair and his prior work came with high recommendations, but his attitude of how much work this would be did not sit well with me.

 

The next painter was happy to meet us, had a huge smile on his face, and at each turn of the house kept asking my wife what she wanted and telling us that we did not have to do a thing! He even suggested a few other ideas that my wife might also like, that would make more work for him, things he said he would do at no charge! He said that moving things and doing these extras were his job and said, “I am happy to do it!” His bid was also fair, but he kept throwing in things for free! His attitude made all the difference and we went with him. The week was amazing. He moved things with care, worked hard, and all his crew was friendly and intent on doing an excellent job. They were obviously having fun. What a joy!! The house looks great. My wife is ecstatic, and we are even going to give him a well-deserved tip (and still be under our budget!!). He has blessed us and we want to bless him.

 

God also used this experience to challenge me with the truth that our attitude makes a difference! This painter won the bid because of his positive, can-do, helpful attitude. His kind demeanor set my wife at ease, and the way he listened to her and let her process through the changes was just what she needed. She even asked if he could fix something that was not his problem and before you know it was done with a smile. His attitude made a difference. Attitude is a choice. Now, sure, our environment makes it easy or difficult to choose our attitude, but we do have the power to change our attitude. God even challenges us to choose a good attitude.

Philippians 2:14–15 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Philippians 4:8–9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Colossians 3:23 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

As we chose a kind, nice, encouraging, helpful, loving attitude, it makes a difference.

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

 

Our attitudes can truly lift others spirits, encourage, and even bring healing. What good, positive attitudes could you choose today?

 

Church can be a place where we recalibrate our attitudes. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. We would love to connect with you.

 

Seeking to choose a great attitude today, along with you,

 

Mike

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Welcome Difficulty!?!

 

James 1:2-4 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

A while back, I was watching a coach encourage his players. The kid was struggling in practice saying the drills were too hard, it was too hot outside, and was grousing, saying, “What’s the point anyway? The other team we are about to face is the best in the league!” The coach could see this player was a bit discouraged and that the difficulty of practice was overwhelming the team and that they were getting discouraged about the upcoming game. The coach called to one of his most improved players and asked him to run the field, just one lap. The kid did it with ease. As he came back smiling, not even out of breath, he looked at the coach and asked, “What was the point in that?” The coach then asked his star receiver to go out for a pass and his starting quarterback to throw it to him. They ran the play with incredible ease. They, too, came back with questioning looks on their faces, and as the quarterback handed the ball to the coach said, “How is that going help this Friday night?” Coach pulled up three linemen and asked them to push the training sled 20 yards. The three husky guys smiled, and with a little swagger in their step, walked over to the sled and pushed in with basically no effort. The rest of the team mockingly cheered their efforts because this task took no great effort. Just one of them could have done this with ease. Finally the team captain spoke up, “OK coach. We don’t get it. What are you trying to get us to see?”

 

The coach looked at the most improved player and asked when he first joined the team, how much he could run without getting sick. The guy said about half the field. The coach looked at both the receiver and the quarterback and asked how many receptions did they make all of their first season. Both looked at each other and said, “None!” One of the linemen beat the coach to the question and said they could not even move the sled their first year. Coach said, “We go through the rigors of practice and yes, it’s tough. Some of you have puked, nearly passed out, and most all of you were so exhausted you about cried.” They all looked at the most improved player and as he noticed the team looking at him, he announced, “Tears of joy, coach!” They all laughed. But coach went on. “We take you through the trials of practice to build your endurance, to bring out your best, and to do well as we face our opponents. So welcome the difficulty! Now get up and start running until I say stop!!” Coach blew his whistle and the guys started running with a new resolve. That most improved player yelled out, “Tears of joy, guys!”

 

Yes, life is difficult. Trials and tough circumstances hit us almost every day. Yet there is a choice to be trained by those trials and let them build character like patience, humility, perseverance, and tenacity. Trials also help us sweat out selfishness and squeeze out of us those not-so-favorable characteristics like insensitivity and pride. Many times we need a coach to guide us. Jesus is willing if we come to Him.

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

The ‘yoke’ this Bible verse is referring to is a wooden harness that two beasts of burden wear to ‘coach’ them, guiding them as they plow a field. Jesus says it’s not a harsh coaching He provides, but one that still involves work. Yet, it will guide us through the rocky fields of life. The key here is to listen and follow the coach’s lead. When we have a great coach like Jesus we can welcome difficulty and claim the reality in James 1:2-4. What difficulty are you welcoming today?

 

Church is a great place to connect and get reconnected with coach Jesus. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net.

 

Welcoming difficulty along with you,

 

Mike

 

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Honored and Marvelous!

 

Psalms 139:13-14 13 For You (God) 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.

 

I was out with a few people for lunch the other day (Taco Tuesday at the Fish Grill. I love that place!!) to enjoy some time together and those amazing fish tacos! As we were waiting for our meal, the little preschool daughter of one in our group was enjoying being out with all of us, chatting and loving the attention. We were told she was late for her nap and soon would begin to shut down. She did as she crawled up in her daddy’s arms and nestled in and went fast asleep. We she did not wake up even as her dad went to get their meal, nor did she wake up through our conversation or the volume of the restaurant. She was perfectly at peace in her father’s arms.

 

This little sleeping angel was perfectly at peace because her dad and mom love her dearly. I have known this couple for years and they are wonderful people and amazing parents. They properly esteem their kids and hold them as precious gifts from God.

 

As she was sleeping away I could not help but smile knowing the great blessing she has in that she will constantly be reminded that she is honored and marvelous. The Bible is clear in Psalm 139:13-14 that we are all ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ We are all hand crafted by God inside our moms in honored reverent respect. That is what the ‘fearful’ means from Psalm 139:14. We were not just thrown together with no thought. We each were crafted with carful artistic intensity that reflects our Creator

Genesis 1:26-27 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

 

Psalm 8:3-5 3 When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You (God) have set in place, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

 

We are distinguished, extraordinary, set apart as special and miraculous, a marvelous creation of God! This is what the word ‘wonderful’ means from Psalm 139:14. Yep, you are both honored and marvelous.

Psalm 139:15-17 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, e God! How vast is the sum of them!

 

Oh that we would believe this great truth that we are honored and marvelous. Sure, still keeping a humble and gracious attitude that does not think we are deity and the world should revolve around us, but to let the truth soak in that God holds us in honored reverent respect, being knit together with careful artistic intensity. Because you are honored and marvelous!!

 

Church can be a place where we are reminded of our humble honored and marvelous nature. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. We would be honored to connecting with you.

 

Thankfully for God’s work in creating me, along with you,

 

Mike

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Every Adventure Starts with a First Step

I love the insightful stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein. These are wonderful books, now made into movies. They highlight characters that are all too often like us humans. One such character is Bilbo Baggins, a pleasant Hobbit settled into his nice little Hobbit hole of a home in the peaceful, serene land of the Shire. His life was planned, organized, and this included plenty of time for occasional interactions with others, with much time ordering life and home, being busy about protecting his sedentary existence. When approached by the wizard Gandalf about heading out on an adventure Bilbo replied, “Sorry I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!” Bilbo, like many of us, was reluctant to the disruption of adventure.

Gandalf persisted, yet Bilbo retorted that he could read about all kinds of adventures and view maps of excited places. Gandalf countered, “The world is not in your books and maps. Its out there…you’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.” Bilbo seeming a bit interested, yet fighting the fear said, “Can you promise that I will come back?” Gandalf honestly answered, “No. And if you do…you will not be the same.” At that you would think the story would have ended and Gandalf would have chosen another. However, something stirred in Bilbo that moved him to step out into a great adventure.

 

The Bible challenges us to be people willing to step out and do the hard work of taking the initiative.

Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Proverbs 10:4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

A diligent hand is one that takes the initiative to step out into the great risky adventures of life. There is a richness beyond the monetary for those who step out their front door and walk into the adventures of life; meeting new people, trying new restaurants, using your skills and time volunteering at school, church, in your city, at a nonprofit organization, helping your neighbor, being kind to someone in need, taking a fun trip, starting a new hobby, and getting to know God better. These adventures all take efforts, but it is well worth it!

Proverbs 12:11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 22:29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

It is a great temptation to spend much of our time and energies in a survival mode thinking we have no time for adventures, yet that may be just what our lives need. We need the change that comes as we stretch ourselves to venture out and make new friends, take that dream trip, go on a short term missions project, learn that new skill or craft, and get out of our comfort zone. We will be different, changed and no longer suffering the plight of a sedentary existence.

 

Though there are many examples of adventurous people in the Bible, one I like ”The Proverbs 31 Woman.” She is amazing. She has a great relationship with her husband, she has learned and works her talents and skills, she is involved in all kinds of business ventures, she helps the needy, and she cares for her kids and herself.

Proverbs 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

She is a woman who takes the initiative and is willing to step out into the many adventures of life. Will you? What adventures are waiting for you?

 

Maybe it’s time to make time and take time to head out on a new adventure. Every adventure starts with a first step, what will yours be?

 

Maybe one of your next adventures is to attend church. Church is a great place to be encouraged towards the adventure of knowing God. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. We would love the adventure of connecting with you.

Stepping out on some new adventures along with you,

Mike

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Dare to be Diligent!

One of the unfortunate side effects of our ‘everybody gets a trophy’ world is the conditioning that just showing up is enough and all there is to receive the reward of accomplishment. Yes, presence and being available is important, yet to accomplish and achieve it takes diligence and the grit of perseverance. Beethoven was not born with his talent; he sharpened his piano skills through diligent practice. Walt Disney diligently pushed through failure and the natural pushback of innovation to create an amazing entertainment giant. Milton Hershey diligently pursued his dream of bringing milk chocolate to all and if you are a chocolate lover like me, you are so glad he did! I’m craving a s’more right now!! Diligence is difficult, demanding, and daring, but so worth it!

 

I was waiting for a meeting outside of a local coffee shop. A group of young adults were next to me chatting and talking about all their summer adventures they had been on and going to take. They were also discussing, or more critiquing, the latest movie they had viewed. They were dressed in the normal summer garb of shorts, tank tops, and sandals, with a few looking like they had just rolled out of bed. When up walked another 20-something dressed up in a sharp suit and tie, hair combed, and you could smell the pleasant fragrance of nice cologne. The guys around the table all sat up and expressed a bit of shock and awe of this apparent friend. “Wow,” one said. “You look amazing! Is this for that new internship you went for?” The well-dressed young man smiled and nodded as he straightened his tie. One of the other guys touted, “Your never going to see me ‘dress up’ for nobody, they have to take me as I am…” Another guy looked straight back at this guy and interjected, “…and why your never going to get anywhere!” They all laughed, but you could tell that retort sunk deep.

 

To dare to be diligent means we do what it takes to be sharper, we make tough life-changing decision, we push through failure, we seek to be intentional, and we hunt after our goals. The Bible presents us with some great challenges to be diligent.

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 12:24 Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty

The word diligent in these passages means to sharpen, to make decisions, to make choices, to hunt after, to be intentional. The Bible also pulls from nature to give us a good example of diligence.

Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— 11 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

The idea is to do what Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” So dare to be diligent. Be diligent with your occupation, education, marriage, time with your families and friends, recreation, and most certainly with your faith! There is amazing joy in the journey of diligence. What will you dare to be diligent in today?

 

Maybe you could dare to be diligent and attend a church this Sunday? Church is a great place to foster diligence of faith. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net. We would truly enjoy connecting with you.

 

Daring to be diligent along with you,

 

Mike

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On Purpose

Life matters, your life matters. Each one of us is here for a reason. It is bigger than us, and we do have a significant part in life that makes a difference!

 

I was once again reminded of the reality of existing on purpose as I made my annual trip up to Hume Lake (Hume is a beautiful lake nestled in the Sequoia National Forest about an hour up the mountain from Fresno, California, Hume.org ). There is a Christian camp there, and I have been visiting this camp at least once a year since 1976 (and have not yet missed a year!). Hume Lake has been a place where I have made significant life/spiritual decisions, but also a place where every year, as I jog around the lake, I stop and thank God for sparing my life and reminding me He still has me around for a purpose.

 

The event that caused me to pause and reflect was a near death experience I had as I made my way around the back of the lake near the ‘water-restrainer’ (aka dam, but it’s a Christian camp, so they choose to call it a ‘water-restrainer’). It was springtime and the lake was at full capacity, so water was frequently being released from the restrainer. The normal rugged path over the rocks was wet and slippery as the water gushed with great force down into Kings Canyon. At that time, there was not a footbridge as there is now, so people crossed over the gushing water at their own risk. I took the risk and as my friend leapt over the water, landing safely on the other side, it was my turn. It was not a huge jump, so I did not think much of it as I leapt over the over the rocks and rushing water. I still don’t exactly know what happened. I think I must have started my jump on a slippery part of the rock, for I only made it halfway, and fast moving water grabbed me and sucked me completely under the water. The next thing I knew was I was grasping the sides of small pool and hoisting myself out of the water. I was in a bit of shock because the water was freezing. Nothing was broken or damaged, but my fingers were bleeding from digging into the rock so that the current would not take me further down the mountain.

 

As I made my way back to camp, I started to realize all that could have happened. I could have broken some bones, or maybe my back, because the water was flowing as fast as a fire hydrant fully open. I could have not popped back up, as the flow of water was constant. I could have drowned. My wife could have to raise our kids by herself. The job I loved so much as a pastor to students would have ended. No more fulfillment of dreams, nor would I have a significant role in anything anymore. My purpose in life would have ended.

 

Yet, my life did not end that day, and God made it clear He has me around for a purpose. There are significant and important actions, relationships, interactions, and use of the talents He has given me which still need to be used. And if you are reading this, you do too! God has you around on purpose! There are people He wants you to bless. There are others He has you run into so you would be the one to encourage them, affirm them, compliment them, and smile at them. There are abilities He has given you to use for the betterment of your business, school, office, and community. There is a family He had you be born into so you might help, serve, and care for them. You are here on purpose!

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

See, God has plans for us, significant plans, important plans. We are here on purpose. Now sure, we may not win the Nobel Prize or receive a medal of honor, but we may be that one interaction with another that sets them on a good path. The key is to seek God.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

To seek God is to learn of Him and align life His way. He did create you (see Psalm 139:13-17) on purpose. You were not an accident or a mistake. You are a very much loved person who has purpose. The key is to seek to discover that purpose and this involves a trust in God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

The idea of ‘making our paths straight’ is to lead us through life, for we were created for a purpose.

 

Church is a great place to grow in our understanding of God and our purpose. If you don’t already have a church you attend regularly, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need www.cypresschurch.net . We would love to connect with you.

 

Seeking to live out God’s purpose on my life along with you,

Mike

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More Love, Less Criticism

In a world where scorching accusations and sweltering criticisms are the norm, love and affirmation are like a refreshing drink on a hot day. I was about three people deep in line at a local drug store. The person checking out ahead of me was not happy about something. They actually walked up to the cashier in a huff and criticized the clerk for being so slow. The cashier politely apologized and asked if they had a rewards card and explained that the item was half off if you had a rewards card. The customer barked back, “Just ring me up, can’t you see I am in a hurry?!” The customer turned to look at the line of us, rolled their eyes and with pursed lips shook their head. The cashier then asked if they needed a bag. That set the customer off as they expressed their feelings about being charged for the bag, that the item they were purchasing was too expensive, and continued to complain about the disrespectful service. All of us in line were very uncomfortable and relieved as the person stormed out of the store.

 

The cashier was visibly shaken. Gaining composure, they asked for the next in line. The person stepped up and while looking the cashier in the eyes apologized for what they went through and complimented the cashier for how they handled the incident. The heat of the accusations and criticisms where squelched with cool kudos from a kind person. A smile came over the cashier’s face and you could see the kind words encouraged them. The Bible affirms this loving, kind behavior:

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

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:4  A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

As each of us stepped up to make our purchase, we followed the example of this kind customer and sought to affirm and encourage the cashier. What a difference when there is more love and less criticism! Sure, there is a place for thinking critically and sharing some helpful assessments, but always in the spirit love. The Bible goes on to challenge us to have more love and less criticism:

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

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

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ,

2 Timothy 2:24-25a   24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,  25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.

 

I walked out of that store with a challenge to be more like the nice, kind customer, not the critical one. What about you? Let’s not add to the heat of negative conversation, but express more love and less criticism. Let’s smile more and say kind things, and even throw out a few more affirmations. Your brief, kind words could be the best part of someone else’s day!

 

I have learned a lot about kindness from hanging around kind people. Church has a great concentration of kind people and is a good place to be challenged to love more. If you do not already attend a church, we would love to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches.  Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net .

 

Seeking to share more love and less criticism along with you,

 

Mike

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