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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Good Question

Albert Einstein, one of the world’s brightest minds said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” The truth is when curiosity strikes and we begin to ask questions, something amazing happens in our brains. According to neuroscientists (like those out of Colombia University Center of Decision Science in an online paper, February 2017), questions trigger a mental reflex that hijacks the brain and seeks an answer. See our brains are not hardwired just to perform the same function, but God created us to think, reason, and learn! We were blessed with curiosity, to ask a lot of questions.

 

We see this natural curiosity with kids. Little kids have a lot of questions. I was out in our local grocery store picking up a few things and a frustrated mom hurriedly passed me in the narrow store aisle. She stopped right before me, frantically scanning the shelves. Yet what caught my attention was her little daughter who was expressing her blessed curiosity with a thousand questions: “Mommy, why are bananas yellow? Why is it called peanut butter when it doesn’t come from a cow? If sugared cereal is so bad for me, why does the store have it? Can worms burp? How come you always seem mad when you come shopping?” And after that question I choose to push on. Little kids have great questions, just ask any kindergarten teacher. It’s how we learn. Actually, one of the best paths of learning is to ask questions.

 

Asking good, probing questions is what helpful life coaches do. They are not some kind of guru or sage to tell us what to do, but help us discover through asking and answering searching questions. Jesus of the Bible is an amazing life coach as He asked some very good questions:

Matthew 6:27   And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matthew 7:3   Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Matthew 7:15-16  15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Matthew 14:28-31  28 And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  31 Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

 

These questions make us think. Some may have even hijacked your brain for a moment and opened the door of curiosity towards God, life, and faith. That’s great, and we should ask a lot of questions, especially seeking to understand God, faith, and the amazing life He has for us. The Bible encourages us to think!

Romans 12:2   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

‘By testing’ means to ask questions. Yes, even the tough questions, for God is more than able to handle our curiosity. What tough questions come to your mind about God, faith, and life? Are any of those questions emotionally charged? If so, why?? Hmmm, some good interesting questions to ponder.

 

I know, for me, I don’t want to get too stressed or too intense that I don’t continue to be inquisitive. I used to get into a lot trouble by asking a lot of questions. I know some of the asking was to get attention, but mostly, I want to learn. There are so many interesting and intriguing realities in our world that fascinate me. As well, the more and more I learn of God, the more immense He becomes to me and the more insight I gain for life.

 

Let’s keep letting our brains be a bit hijacked by asking good questions.

 

Church is an amazing place to ask good questions and seek answers about God, faith and life. If you do not already attend a church, we would love to invite you to Cypress Church or one of our branch churches. We are just now starting a teaching series about the intense questions Jesus asked. We would love for you to join us. Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net . Why not give church a try?

 

Being curious with good questions along with you,

 

Mike

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Trust Moves!

Everything in me wanted to turn right, but the GPS said the fastest way was to turn left, in the opposite direction of where I was heading. What should I do? Which voice should I listen to? The voice in my head or the voice of the GPS? I was faced with an issue of trust, a trust move. Would I take the risk to trust in this app on a phone that boasted of creating the fastest route, or would I take the more comfortable risk of trusting in my own thoughts? What would be my trust move?

 

When it comes down to the decisions of life, the directions or choices to make, we are faced with the same dilemma. Will we take the risk to listen to proven experts or go with our own thoughts? Both take an element of trust. I know with driving in Los Angles traffic, I do have a working knowledge of what freeways to take and what lanes seem to be the fastest, yet I have limited knowledge of what might be ahead; like traffic density, accidents, police activity (all of which are a regular part of LA traffic). So there I was, ready to turn onto the congested freeway when the app suggested a new route that would take me on a detour, yet bring me to my destination faster. This app calculated this new route because it monitored all the issues that slow cars down and found a faster way.

 

Don’t you wish there was an app like this for life? Well, in a way there is!! The Bible put it this way…

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

God has a way and plan for us.

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

To engage that plan is to trust in Him. To trust in God is to seek Him.

Jeremiah 29:12-13   12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  13 You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,           

For some, to call on God seems a little beyond their comfort. For others, to talk/pray to God seems as natural as talking to an old friend. Either way, it takes effort and trust to investigate God’s insights. The big question is, will you? And will you trust in what God says? The Bible does say…

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

I chose to trust in that driving app and avoided miles of major slow-downs. I have also chosen to trust in the Lord, to soak in His wisdom from the Bible, and it has made an amazing difference. Sure, my life has ups and downs; medical issues, family struggles, death, disappointment, and more. But even with these rough roads, following God’s wisdom brings guidance, comfort, and even joy. As well, trusting in God has brought fulfillment and a deep satisfaction in life. What about you? Who are you trusting in to navigate life?

Church is an amazing place to understand God and grow in our trust of Him. If you do not already attend a church, we would love to invite you to Cypress Church or one or our branch churches. Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net . We would greatly enjoy the opportunity to journey with you through all of life’s travels.

Seeking to make some trust moves along with you,

Mike

 

Mike

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Kind Words are Valuable

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

Words matter and have a profound effect on us. We cherish comments, we prize praises, we appreciate accolades, and we treasure tributes. Words hold great value to us and deeply affect us. Especially kind words, fitly or aptly spoken. Words spoken appropriate to the circumstance, as this Bible proverb encourages, adorn us like beautify jewelry. We feel built up, invigorated, refreshed and even revived by words ‘fitly’ spoken.

 

I was going through some email just the other day and received a response to a question I had asked. In their response they share just a few words that were refreshing, like a cool drink on hot day. It was not much, just some words of application and an affirmation of our friendship. It not only lifted my spirits but strengthened my bond with him. His kind words were of great value to me.

 

The Bible book of Proverbs continues to help us use this value-giving opportunity of ‘fitly’ spoken words.

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

Words that are sensitive, caring, courteous, kind-hearted, and thoughtful leave a lovely taste. It’s saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and offering authentic praise. These are also words of understanding and expressions of hope and love. It’s saying we care, we are sorry for another’s pain, and sometimes not saying anything, but letting our presence speak an abundance of words.

 

These ‘fitly’ spoken words mean we need to think before we speak.

Proverbs 16:20-21   20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.  21 The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.   

It helps to take a pause before we speak and even ask of God to give us wisdom so our words are gracious and kind. Words are incredibly valuable and we should take care in using them. For the truth is…

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 12:25  Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

 

Kind words are valuable, let’s use them well and use them often. You could make someone’s day with just a few words ‘fitly’ spoken. Will you?

 

Church is a good place to learn more of God’s wisdom so we can be wise in our words. If you do not already attend a church, we would love to invite you to Cypress Church or one or our branch churches. Our web site has all the information for all our campuses: www.cypresschurch.net . It would be great to connect with you and share some valuable words..

 

Seeking spread the valuable words of kindness along with you,

 

Mike

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