Life Giving Considerations

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

This past week I had the honor to help in my wife Kristi’s kindergarten class. Kristi has a way to create such a positive, loving, learning environment. Yes, she is strict, but still brings about an atmosphere of learning and where these young students help each other, care for each other, are kind to each other, and learn the valuable lessons of interacting with others. The kids in her class are amazing, fun, intelligent, bright, thoughtful, hard workers, and very considerate of others. I learn so much from them and they inspire me to be a better person. On this particular visit, it was a student’s last day. Kristi, knowing this child would miss all the festivities of the last day of school, let the class know this was his last day and encouraged kids to let him know he will be missed and it was great to have him as a classmate. I thought it was nice for Kristi to say, but honestly did not think many kids would come up to the boy who was leaving. I was blown away, as throughout the clean up and goodbyes for the day, many, if not most of the kids came up and thanked this boy for being in their class, told him they would miss him, and wished him a great summer. They did not all come up to him at once, but as they opened up the door to how this kid must feel, they went up to him, looked him in the eyes and talked with him. Some gave hugs, some laughed, some said very little, but these little gestures of consideration were life giving.

 

Sure these kids could have taken the normal path of thinking only about themselves. However, they made the choice to be considerate, and it will have a lasting impact on this little boy, but also on them.

 

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, it will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

 

I know I get so busy or so focused on what I am doing, I am not as considerate towards others as I should be. It’s like this person I saw on that very day, right before I went to Kristi’s class. I was pulling out of the doctor’s office and part of the parking lot was a farmer’s market. Well, this person decided to cross, not at a cross walk or safe place to cross, but walked down the center of the drive way blocking cars coming in and going out of the parking lot. Neither she nor her adult son were being considerate of the safety hazard they were causing. They even seemed to slow their pace as cars were edging up toward them and continued to not get out of the way. We all just waited, and you could see the unfortunate negative expressions and feelings brought out by this inconsideration.

Romans 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

 

I think most people who where inconvenienced by this thoughtless few just shrugged it off and went about their day.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

 

I drove off being challenged to be a bit more considerate of my actions.

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

 

This same day ended with yet another lesson in being considerate. We had gone to enjoy a date night at Disneyland. At our restaurant we were overcharged. When we called it their attention, wow, the shift manager came out and instead of being all miffed over the mistake or blaming us, he was kind, asking us about our day. He apologized and not only made it right, but even knocked a few dollars off the total bill. We thanked him for his kindness and he said, “I want you to be treated the way I would want to be treated.” That reminded me of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. The Disney guy also said he wanted to give us such a positive guest experience we would tell others. It worked! Disney’s customer service is all about being considerate.

 

Being considerate is not just good for business, but good for life. I wonder how much good and joy we could spread if we would seek to be even more considerate. Let’s try!

 

Church can be a great place grow in being more considerate. If you don’t regularly attend a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Seeking to be more considerate along with you,

Mike

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The Blessing of Serving

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

 

I was plugging in my exercise and food intake in my fitness app (don’t think too much of this for I rarely record all I eat and therein lies my problem!) and an article popped up “Want Bigger Heath Benefits? Start Volunteering.” The article lists a few studies that show people who volunteer, who are involved in serving others, serving causes, serving in their city, schools, churches, and other organizations, have better emotional and physical health. Yes, this is true. Most health professionals, including mental health providers say there are great benefits and blessings in serving. Just do a little online search and you will find many articles about the benefits of volunteering/serving. What serving does is to create space in life for wellness, happiness, and growth in both character and faith.

 

See, God’s desire is for us to serve.

Galatians 5:13-14 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (selfishness), but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

To love our neighbor is to serve. Jesus, seeking to explain who our neighbor is, told a story. The story was about The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In this story a person gets mugged, beaten, and left for dead. Two religious people, who we think would help because they appear to have the same loving heart as God, stepped to the other side of the street, doing nothing. Then along comes a person from the area of Samaria, who the hearers of the story had despised and looked down on due to their race. The clincher is that this despised person does the godly thing and lovingly helps/serves their fellow human by caring for them at their own expense. To love our neighbor is to serve them.

 

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.’”

 

The blessing of serving is that it does help others. We have the honor and privilege to be a blessing for someone else. There are so many great organizations to volunteer, to serve; the Boys and Girls Club, the Senior Center, serve the city by contacting your local Parks and Recreation department. When school is in session, volunteering/serving at your local school is very helpful. I am married to a teacher, and parents and other adult helpers aide in creating a greater learning environment. Together, with others, we can do a lot of good.

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.

 

I have taken many groups of students and adults on various serving trips. Some have been more local and some overseas. As people serve, these opportunities get people’s mind off of themselves on to others or the cause at hand and amazing things happen within the serving individual. God uses this opportunity to grow our character and move us on to maturity. I remember taking students to a developing nation and walking them down a street where multiple families lived in cardboard houses with dirt floors and no running water. As the walk went on, my group got silent. Something was happening within them. At our nightly debriefing and asking them what they felt God was teaching them, they talked of how materialistic they are, how much they waste, how they could live on way less, and how self-focused they had become. Many who go on these types of trips are never the same. There is a blessing in serving. What have you discovered?

 

I was visiting another church in another state that focuses on getting people into serving. I asked one guy what he learned by serving. He said he learned how to relate to people and be a friend. He mentioned that he was a bit of a loner in life and now in his adulthood had become kind of lonely. He tried serving on a team, and as he worked alongside others, he saw how to be a friend. He now has a big group of friends and even does things socially with the people he serves alongside. There is a blessing in serving.

 

Yes, serving involves us taking the initiative to find a place to serve, and the energy and effort to create space to serve in our busy lives. Yet it might be just what we need; for the there is a blessing in serving.

 

Church can be a great place to serve and learn of serving. If you don’t regularly attend a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Seeking to serve others along with you,

Mike

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Speaking Kindly

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

 

I was at an event today and a friend, who just seemed to know what was churning in my soul, came up to me, prayed for me and said some very thoughtful and kind words to me. It was just what I needed to hear, soothing my anxious heart and I felt energized, empowered, and ready to take on the challenge ahead. After he walked away, I thanked God, for I knew the Lord had sent him. God does stuff like that. I was so glad this friend listened to God’s prompting and spoke kindness to me.

 

Speaking kindly is something we all can do. God tells us of its value.

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.

 

Proverbs 15:23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man and a word in season, how good it is!

 

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

‘Fitly spoken’ means at an appropriate time, saying that those who are sensitive with their words and speak kindly at the appropriate time are as precious as hand crafted jewelry. Wow! I wonder if my words are that ‘fitly’ spoken? The truth is, we can be carless with our words.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Speaking kindly is wise and blesses those around us. Our word choice and the kindness that surrounds them can bless, so we should think about our words.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

 

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Colossians 3:12-13 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.

 

Too much we just let hurtful words fly – in person, over the phone, on social media. Maybe we should think about what those words sound like and how we would feel if they were said to us. There is just too much hate speech, careless words, and cutting jabs out there. Why not counter that by speaking kindly?

 

This friend had no idea how incredibly empowering and encouraging his kind words were to me. What if we all sought to be nice and say kind things to others? It could have an empowering effect on others.

 

Church can be a wonderful place to hear of the kindness of God and be encouraged to share that kindness with others. If you don’t regularly attend a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Seeking to speak kindly to others along with you,

 

Mike

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Choosing Wisely

Proverbs 16:16 How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

 

Wisdom is the ability to make good choices. We make thousands of choices everyday: what to have for breakfast, if we are going exercise of not, how we will respond to that annoying person, whether we are going to be aggravated or not, to what quality we will do a task, who we will get to know, what we will let our mind dwell on, and if we will keep reading this. Some choices are mundane and some are life altering. This past weekend, my wife and I were at a wedding, a celebration of a choice to be joined to another. In their vows, the couple made public their choice to love each other, “until death do us part.” It was beautiful and life changing. Actually, their relationship started with her choice to come up and say hi to him during our church ‘meet and greet’ time. That simple choice led to more choices that eventually led to the prayerful choice of getting married. As we heard about their story at the ceremony, we learned this couple did not just make this choice of marriage on a whim. They sought God though prayer, talked extensively with their parents and friends, considered what this commitment would mean, and went for it. They chose wisely.

 

God does encourage us to be wise and make wise decisions. Here are four helps in choosing wisely:

 

Seek God

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

To fear God is to revere Him in respect and honor. It means we consider Him and through prayer ask for wisdom, guidance, and insight.

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.

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

 

Seek others

Bring others whom you trust into your decision process and listen to their input.

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 18:1-2 1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

 

Seek Examples

Look around at examples from history, from others, even from nature.

Proverbs 6:6-8 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

The ant has innate God-given wisdom to work diligently, prepare for what is to come, and take the initiative to move forward. Wow, that’s big! A lot of wisdom comes from such a little creature.

 

Count the Cost

Jesus was talking to those who would choose to follow Him. He challenged them to count the cost.

Luke 14:28-32 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

 

Church can be a great place to grow in this practice of choosing wisely. 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 more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Choosing wisely along with you,

 

Mike

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Practice Presence – The Art of Being All There

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

 

I was out for a quick bite to eat one day at lunchtime. I did not have much time, and though I usually try to enjoy a meal with someone, I was eating solo. Well, kind of eating solo, as in times like these I try to multi-task reading and answering emails. This particular lunch I did not feel much like interacting with email, so I just enjoyed my fish tacos and did a little people watching. There was one particular group of people that was sitting so very close to me in this crowed dining area, I felt like I was at their table. I noticed most all of the people were eating their food with one hand and other was on their phone. While they were talking together a few would look up from their phone and chime in. Some others would not respond at all, even when directly addressed. They were not present. Their attention was focused elsewhere. However, there was one person in that group who was completely engaged in the conversation and drawing others in by asking questions, looking them in the eyes, giving out affirmations, and nicely invited them away from their phones. Soon, they all were present and involved in the conversation, laughing, and from what I observed, they were all there.

 

In a day and time where there is so much pulling us away from personal/real time interactions with others, there is a great need to practice presence, to develop the art of being all there. I greatly admire and feel so blessed to be with people who practice presence. They make you feel like you are most important person in the world! Maybe you are that kind of person. I know I want to be more that kind of a person. My son-in-law, Jericho, is like that. People feel so affirmed, so accepted, so loved around him. He is everyone’s best friend. When you are with him he gives you focused attention.

 

God calls us to value those people around us.

Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Jesus called this the second most important commandment of all. The first is to love God and…

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

 

To love is to act in a loving way towards someone (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and to be involved being present, practicing the art of being all there. To practice presence is to give our full attention to those around us and discipline our minds to put aside other competing thoughts. I know when I am with my grandkids, even though I love them so much, I am constantly drawn to my ever growing email, text feeds, and to do lists. I can choose to put down my phone, that portal to my work world, and give them my full attention. One time my grandson came up to me, gently put his hand over my phone, and said, “You’re not watching me, Papa! I am trying to show you something.” Ouch! I needed to let my love for him push that phone back in my pocket!

 

Yes, life is so busy and it’s tough to have this focused attention, but how much better we will be and how affirmed others would be if we would be all there. So, yes, lets love others as we practice presence.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

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

1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Romans 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

 

Church can be a great place not only to practice presence but to learn the art of being all there. 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 more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Seeking to practice presence more along with you,

 

Mike

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You Are More

Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

 

It is a complete joy to see so many people graduating. Facebook and Instagram are lit up with smiling graduates flanked with family and friends. Some have overcome great odds and adversity, and that walk across the stage to receive their diploma is like a well- earned victory lap. Way to go graduates! Because though most everyone has the ability, not everyone is willing to muster up the grit to stay the course. You have achieved much and that achievement is worth the reward of a diploma and, of course, a bit of celebration. In a world where everyone gets a trophy or a ribbon just for showing up, it is refreshing that a there are standards for academic achievement. It makes the accomplishment mean something.

 

Unfortunately, this ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality has slipped into the academic world. According an article in The Columbus Dispatch a few years ago, one school district had 222 Valedictorians with 90 of them coming from one high school. A Valedictorian is supposed to be the highest-ranking student in the school. We as a society don’t like ranking and the competition it brings, as we feel it can damage self-esteem. Tim Elmore wrote about this in one of his recent email/posts (by the way if you have kids, grandkids, or work with students, I encourage you to subscribe to his newsletter). Elmore says a little competition is good, and it is okay to award top honors as it is a real world experience. As well, we are more than our accomplishments and we should not tie our worth and value to what we can or can’t achieve.

 

The truth is our self-esteem comes from whom we are, and the truth is we are a wonderful, hand-crafted creation of God.

Psalms 139:14 I praise You (God), for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are Your works; My soul knows it very well.

We are not a mistake regardless of what we do or don’t do or what people say about us. We are more. I love the song You Are More by 10th Avenue North that explains we are more…”You are more than the choices that you’ve made, You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create.” See, we are more! We are hand-crafted creations God knit together inside our mom. We are God’s masterpieces built to do good in this world.

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.

 

Yes, we can get caught up in achievements and wealth, but as King Solomon said (who, by the way, is the wealthiest and wisest that has ever lived) in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 that money, possessions, power, and privilege are all vanity or a waist of time. Actually, the Bible book of Ecclesiastes is all about Solomon seeking what’s important in life and where our value lies. He concludes the book with this…

Ecclesiastes 12:13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

To fear God is to recognize Him as Creator and to find our worth in Him. You are more!! So seek to know Him more and let who He has created you to be fill you with value, significance, and more.

 

Church can be a great place to learn more of God and our value in Him. Actually, this past Sunday we talked about experiencing God as our “Abba Father” from the Bible book of Romans 8:12-17. You can find that message at https://cypresschurch.net/sermons. 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 more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).

 

Seeking to be that “more” we were created to be along with you,

 

Mike

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Be Brave

2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

I have known a lot of brave people in my life. Some have done heroic ventures in business, in missions, in their cities, in their churches, in their neighborhoods, and in their homes. It’s inspiring as people strap on courage and conquer the giant goal in front of them. I have also seen my daughter, who is a nurse for the Country of Orange, bravely do her job bringing heath care to the homeless. In this process she has bravely given aid while being cursed at, grabbed, swung at, and even been bombarded with insults and inappropriate language. It does raise fear as much of this is from unstable, mentally ill people. Yet, she bravely does her job. To be brave is to act despite fear.

 

Now, being brave is not just heroic acts, but overcoming our own individual fears, like my wife Kristi. She pushed through her fear of technology and higher education and went on to get her masters degree. She had not written a paper in over 30 years and though she could use her computer, she was more a technology immigrant than a native like our present day college students. Yet she persevered, knowing this discipline would stretch her and help her to be an even better teacher. Being brave has helped her grow and her brave actions not only gave her more knowledge but confidence, and even more courage.

 

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking wrote in a Psychology Today article that “Courage is a habit, a muscle you can exercise.” The more we make brave steps the more brave we will be. It starts with the brave move to accomplish that goal for today, then a bigger one the next day, then that huge one the following day. So we are making bold brave strides of applying for that new job, having that difficult conversation, facing that fear despite past failures, moving on from grief, or tackling that life-time goal.

 

See, the truth is we have the potential to be brave. God has not given us a spirit of fear. Yes, fear comes easy, but we can exercise that muscle of courage and be brave.

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

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We can be brave because God promises to be with us (See Psalm 145:18, Jeremiah 23:23, James 4:8)

Psalms 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Psalms 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

To wait for the Lord is to follow His leading and rely on His strength. It’s not just mustering up courage, but seeking God and asking Him to guide and direct you.

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.

Psalms 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

 

Be brave! It’s in you to step up in courage. What courageous choices could you make today? Your bravery will not only encourage others, but build in you that brave person God made you to be.

 

Church can be a great place to exercise bravery. It might even be a small step of bravery to attend church. 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 more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/)

 

Seeking to be brave along with you,

 

Mike

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