Welcome Difficulty?!

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

Sometime back, I was watching a coach encourage his players. One kid was struggling in practice. He was saying the drills were too hard, it was too hot outside, and in frustration blurted out “What’s the point anyway? The other team we are about to face is the best in the league! We have not got a chance!!” The coach could see the difficulty of practice was overwhelming the team and that they were getting discouraged about the upcoming game. So, 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 it 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 they made 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 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.  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 wore 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 receive that great coaching of Jesus and His Word, the Bible.  If you don’t have a church, you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to welcome difficulty along with you,

Mike

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Taking the Initiative and Engage God

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the LORD and his strength;seek His presence continually!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 1:10  Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God

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

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

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

Church is a great place to jump in and engage God and others. If you don’t have a church, you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Taking the initiative to engage God along with you,

Mike

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Yes, I Get to Give!

Proverbs 11:25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

I was at my dentist office awhile back getting my teeth cleaned. Yes, I know, not the most joyful time. But this was different. The hygienist was very excited about something going on in their office. It was not that they were getting new equipment, or more benefits, or the latest dentistry gadgets. It also was not some office party or more perks. What she was so excited about was an opportunity to give of her time and volunteer for a day where this dentist provides free dental care for adults in our community! She was so excited and thrilled to use her talents and time to bless others. She was experiencing the giddy joy of giving, saying with enthusiasm, “Yes, I get to give!”  This is what can happen when we give.

There is a deep joy that comes when we give of our time, talents, and yes, money to something meaningful. Most people want to be part of something meaningful, helping others through giving of our efforts and resources. We love stories of the impact of someone giving. Like the story of those who are right now giving to help victims of the recent storms, helping refugees from Afghanistan, sending support to the famine in Madagascar, helping a local business struggling due to the pandemic, or even helping a neighbor in need. Yes, we get to give! In this there is also the blessing that we did something of value. See, when we give, so much happens! When we help those in need, they are encouraged not only with help for their physical or current needs, but also refreshed knowing they are not alone in their plight.

The Bible encourages us to give.

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Proverbs 28:27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

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.”

What is given to us as a result of our generosity may not come back monetarily or in the form of some material want we have longed for, but something far more valuable. When we give, we connect as a community, with individuals in need and with others who are also giving. Giving opens doors and creates an inclusive, loving community. Giving brings on those joyful feelings of being a help knowing that the actions of giving do make a difference to those who receive. Giving also pushes back selfishness, greed, want, and materialism. Now sure, we can give out of pride and to be noticed, and that kind of giving only fuels the heart in which it was given.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Giving is fun! Giving is a joy beyond measure. Giving fills the heart and puts a smile on your face. Giving is a great antidote for bitterness and loneliness. So, let’s say, “Yes, I get to give!” Let’s be generous and see amazing things happen in and through us.

Now yes, church is a great place to give, but mostly to learn about our giving God. If you don’t have a church, you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site. Let’s be generous in our giving.

Experiencing the joy of giving along with you,

Mike

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Honored and Marvelous!

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

A number of years ago I was out with a few people for lunch to enjoy some time together and some 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, and crawled up in her daddy’s arms, nestled in, and went fast asleep. 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 ‘fearfully’ means from Psalm 139:14. We were not just thrown together with no thought. Each of us are crafted with careful, artistic intensity that reflects our Creator.

Genesis 1:26-27  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.” 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  When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You (God) have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 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 ‘wonderfully’ means from Psalm 139:14. Yep, you are both honored and marvelous.

Psalm 139:15-17 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. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, 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 have a church, you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site. Let’s be thankful!

Being reminded of our honored and marvelous nature along with you,

Mike

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A Perspective on Feelings

Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

I was sitting in my office one morning a few weeks ago. Honestly, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was feeling with the hurting people of our church. I was feeling the stress of the many projects on my plate. I was taking in the emotions of our world’s struggles. Then something happened. I heard something. My office window was opened, and I could hear a car pull in, a car door open and people were talking. But there was something different about those voices. They grabbed my attention, my heart leapt. I felt something that brought up joy to my troubled heart. I got up to look out the window and my son-in-law was there with their three kids! I ran down to meet them, flung open the door as three of them ran into my arms as they yelled, “Papa, PAPA, we are here! We are surprising you!” It was the best part of my day. We went up to my office and had snacks, talked, and played with some toys. Because, you know, you must have toys in your office, just in case! They left and I could not wipe that smile off my face.

Feelings and emotions are powerful and interesting part of our lives. God gave us our feelings and they are unique to each of us. He handcrafted us, including the inward parts of our emotions.

Psalm 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Feelings are important and need to be processed and addressed. However, feelings can at times lead us astray.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick;who can understand it?

Led by his heart, Achan Joshua 7:10-26, made a grave error that cost the lives of many.

Joshua 7:20-21 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

His feelings got the best of him and he did not follow God’s instructions. We can feel something so strong we let those feelings lead.

In the Parable of the Talents Matthew 25:14-30 one of the servants let his feelings of fear stop him from fulfilling his master’s request. This servant’s unchecked feelings of fear and being overwhelmed moved him to a sense of entitlement. He felt he was entitled not to fulfill his task.

We do need to talk out and process our feelings, but not them lead.

Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Sharing our feelings and getting help in processing those feelings is healthy. The leaders and people at church can help. If you don’t have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site. Let’s be thankful!

Seeking God’s perspective on feelings along with you,

Mike

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The Gift of Gratitude

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It has been a fun summer around our house. Though we did not travel out of state or go on some exotic vacation, we had a great time doing local trips and fixing up the house. We added some new appliances, exchanged some plants in the yard, sorted out some closets, and put together some bunkbeds for the kid’s room so grandkids had a fun place to sleep over. And yes, we had a few sleepovers with the grandkids. Though it was a lot of activity as we went to the beach, out to eat, to a friend’s pool, visited a few parks, and of course a few Target runs to purchase rewards for good behavior, it was fairly exhausting. Both Kristi and I fell into bed each night with great memories, but tired bodies. One of the last nights I was just about at the end of my rope, cleaning up spilled milk, trying to get them to eat a bit more of the healthier things on their plate, and answering their many questions. One of them came to me, and looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you Papa. You are taking good care of me. You’re like my second dad.” Right then, several things happened at the same time: tears of appreciation started to fill my eyes, a renewed energy of affirmation flooded my being, and a settled confirmation of purpose pushed away the fatigue and filled my heart with a deeper sense of love. The gift of gratitude was fully experienced.

Being thankful, showing gratitude, and expressing affirmation all make a difference both to the people who we bless, but also to ourselves. Many psychologists, counselors, life coaches, and mentors will say there are great personal benefits to gratitude. One article from Psychology Today lists seven proven benefits of gratitude. Most of these types of articles say that people who work at showing gratitude are more positive and others want to be around them, so they have more and deeper relationships. The other listed proven benefits of showing gratitude include improved health, de-escalation of tension, sleeping better, balanced self-esteem, and greater mental strength! Wow! That is a lot. Makes me want to work a little harder at gratitude.

The Bible has been very clear to strive for an attitude of gratitude.

Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:15-16 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

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.

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalms 100:4-5 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

It’s taking inventory of life and expressing our thanks to others and to God for relationships, jobs, abilities, life, health, stuff, friends, family, God’s faithfulness, God’s protection, God’s provision, God’s way of life, and all the amazing experiences that come our way, even the tough things. What are you thankful for? Why not choose someone you know and give that gift of gratitude. Also, pick a few traits of God or ways God has provided or protected you and express thanks to Him. You will be surprised at the gift you receive when you give thanks!

Expressing thanks to God can be done anywhere at any time. But church is a great place to express thanks. If you don’t regularly attend church, maybe try to be more consistent. If you don’t have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site. Let’s be thankful!

Seeking to give the gift of gratitude along with you,

Mike

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Exploring Nature is Good for the Soul

Romans 1:20 For His (God’s) invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

We took 3 of our grandkids out to a local nature park. The kids had so much fun looking for bugs, birds, interesting plants, and other animals. Well, until the oldest one read a sign not to feed the squirrels because they bite. His younger brother started to get a little worried and started asking a lot of questions about where squirrels would be. It was all going fine talking about how creative God is to make spiders that catch bugs and how lizards eat spiders and hawks eat lizards. You know, the circle of life. Well, all was going well until a squirrel ran across the path. The younger one quickly hid behind Kristi and looked at me and said in a calm but forceful voice, “Papa, can we go now?” We were already on our way, but he kept looking over his shoulder to make sure that the squirrel was not following him. Regardless, they loved viewing the fun things God had made: the turtles sunning on rocks, the smell of sage, the look of the beautiful flower, we even walked by some wild raspberry bushes, and of course climbing or hanging out by some logs. In talking about it afterwards, they noticed how God made everything for a purpose, that God likes to make fun and interesting things. They also noticed that each creation has unique creature-powers to catch food and live in their place in nature. You can notice a lot about God in nature!

Not only is there much to notice about God, but it does something for us to get outside and enjoy what God has made. In seeing the care God gave in creating nature means He also put much care into our creation.

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

In trying to encourage Job, who had faced much adversity, one of his friends pointed Job to nature.

Job 12:7-10 But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;and the fish of the sea will declare to you.Who among all these does not knowthat the hand of the LORD has done this?In His hand is the life of every living thingand the breath of all mankind.

Another friend of Job does the same.

Job 37:14-16 Hear this, O Job;stop and consider the wondrous works of God.Do you know how God lays His command upon themand causes the lightning of His cloud to shine?Do you know the balancing of the clouds,the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?

God controls and oversees the cycles and systems of creation. He certainly can oversee our lives and bring in help and care when needed.

Psalms 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenheartedand saves the crushed in spirit.

Yes, nature screams out the greatness of God.

Psalm 104:24-25 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.

Psalm 8:3-4 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet God is mindful of us humans. When helping His disciples deal with anxiety, Jesus used nature to bring comfort.

Matthew 6:28-30 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

See, getting out and exploring nature is good for the soul. Why not take some time and go take a walk in the park, go to a nature center, or the beach, or take a hike in the hills, or maybe just stroll through the garden section of your local hardware store. Notice God’s handiwork and let what He has made settle your soul.

Church is a great place to find the connection with God and nature. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to explore God’s creation along with you,

Mike

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The Incredible Power of Volunteering

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 out greeting kids and their families, kind of like those Walmart Greeters, for our church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was fun to greet kids and parents as they entered the worship center that was transformed into The Sacred Forest (think C.S. Lewis’ Narnia). It has been an amazing week. Kids are having a blast and learning about Jesus who is our forever Rescuer. Our children’s pastor, Lorena, has put together an amazing program that God is using to share Jesus, help kids grow in Jesus, and thrive as followers of Jesus. Yet none of this could happen without the many volunteers. People have volunteered to do games, crafts, be small group leaders, create the set, write the drama, act in the drama, lead in singing, teach the bible lesson, and more! Each effort given is and was powerfully used of God. Not only that, but volunteering helps us grow, encounter God, and infuse fun into our lives.  

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

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

Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.

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, God calls us to give of our time, talent, and treasure. And to do it with joy.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

The work of a volunteer is powerful because it is a choice to serve. A selfless act to willingly give time, or talent, or treasure, or all three to help or bless or encourage or participate. Jesus is a great example of service.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Serving as a volunteer is done with diligence, passion, and as a calling from God!

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

It does feels good to volunteer! We are part of something bigger than us, part of a good cause that makes a difference. Sure, we are free to use our time wherever we choose. But volunteering allows us to uniquely love our neighbors as Jesus commanded Matthew 22:39-40.

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

We can volunteer in our city, in our school, at any number of social service organizations, and yes, with your church. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to engage the incredible power of volunteering along with you,

Mike

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The Goodness of God

Psalms 100:5 For the LORD is good;His steadfast love endures forever,and His faithfulness to all generations.

There is a great interaction in JRR Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit” with Gandalf the wise and wonderful wizard and Bilbo Baggins, a humble but too-comfortable creature called a Hobbit.

“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

When we say God is good, what do we mean? Do we wish to proclaim that God is good or that we personally sense the goodness of God or that regardless if people feel that God is good, He is anyway, or that we feel good about the goodness of God or that God’s goodness just is? Maybe like Bilbo we say, “All of them at once.” The truth is, God is good and we would do well to recognize it and revel in His glorious and life-giving goodness.

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;for His steadfast love endures forever!

God’s steadfast love is His loyal love that is unconditional, always flowing, patient, kind, gracious, merciful, and pure!

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.

God is GOOD!

Psalm 23:8-10 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore, He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.

God directs, helps, and guides us through the ups and downs and all-arounds of life. That is a good reality. Life can get so confusing, and we wonder how to navigate through it all. God says He will direct our path, see Proverbs 3:5-6. God is GOOD!

Psalms 145:9 The LORD is good to all,and His mercy is over all that He has made.

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.

Psalms 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Psalm 107:8-9 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good,a stronghold in the day of trouble;He knows those who take refuge in Him.

God is good. Let’s proclaim that God is good and that we personally sense the goodness of God. We know not all people will agree or believe that God is good, but that does not change the goodness of God’s character. Even if we don’t feel it at times that God is good, He still is! The goodness of God just is!

Church can be a place to learn of and dwell on the goodness of God. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Enjoying the goodness of God along with you,

Mike

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Intentional Interaction

A fun photo with our family

1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!

Kristi and I went over to see our son’s family’s new home. As we approached the door you could hear one of grandkids yell out, “It’s Mormor and Papa. They’re here! Right here at our new house!” The door flung open and smiling kids greeted us with hugs and kisses. They grabbed our arms and led us around the house to show us every room, every corner, every window, and every door. We went out in their back year to see all their fun play toys. One time I guess I was not paying enough attention to one of them and they stopped and yelled out, “Papa, PAPA, PAAAAPAAAA, you’re not listening.” I apologized because my son was also talking to me. All my grandson wanted to show me was where he was now storing his dinosaurs. It was not really about the dinosaurs, he just wanted to have some intentional interaction.

Later that night I started to think about how God intentionally interacts with us.

Luke 15:4-5 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 Jesus uses a lost sheep to get the point across that God goes out after us to bring us back into that interactive relationship with Him. In Luke 15 Jesus goes on with an illustration of a lost coin to show how valuable we are to God Luke 15:8-10. In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus describes God’s intentional interaction like that of a father with two sons. Both needed a closer relationship with their father, but only one humbled himself enough to seek out a connection with his dad. Yet the father went out to engage each of his sons. God does seek intentional interactions with us!

But how do we respond? Do we just turn away? Do we act like our grandkids who get all excited and just want some intentional interaction? I know for me, I want to approach God with the heart like our grandkids have for Kristi and me. To be excited to interact with God, be it reading the Bible or a time in prayer, or in nature like Hume Lake, or at church. True, life is busy, but unless we take time or make time for some intentional interaction with God, we will miss out on the joy of His presence.

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalms 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;my soul thirsts for you;my flesh faints for you,as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

What could you do to pursue some intentional interaction with God today? I’m sure He would be overjoyed and long for time with you. He would even be excited for you to talk to Him about your dinosaur collection!

Yes, church can be a great place to intentionally interact with God. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to have those intentional interactions with God along with you,

Mike

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