The Heart is the Matter


Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.


I saw something interesting this past week at a coffee shop my wife and I frequent. One worker seemed to have just taken a triple-shot of espresso, she was on fire! She was making drinks with gusto and flair. She was singing as she swirled caramel, with a swish and a flick, and a loud, “YES!” She did a little dance as topped another drink with a mountain of whipped cream. All the while she was affirming each cup as a masterpiece with their destiny to bring pleasure and joy. She would then hand the drink to the lucky recipient with a huge smile and some words like, “Great choice! This is going make this night even better!! Enjoy.” To each customer she had affirmations, compliments, and fun sayings that brought on a smile. One customer, who had been watching her as he waited for his drink, said to her, “You must really love your job.” She immediately stopped in mid-dash of chocolate flakes that she was adorning her latest drink-work-of-art, and looked at that customer and with a growing wide smile and said, “Yes I do, I love our team, you wonderful guests, and (she kind of giggled) I really love coffee!” And with a squeal she looked down at that drink, took a breath with a confident smile, and placed a final dash of those chocolate flakes to finish of the drink. It was obvious; her heart was in this job!


Now on down on the other end of the counter was a different story. The worker preparing these drinks was not so chipper. Their face was almost blank as they slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y went about their tasks. They seemed confused as other workers had to remind them, “This was non-fat, not soy. No, see here it says ‘no whip.’ Sorry but this is supposed to be an iced coffee, not hot.” This not-with-it worker was also checking their phone at most every opportunity and kept looking at the clock. When they called out the names for a customer to receive their drinks this worker said it so softly most everyone one around the counter asked what they said. The worker just ignored the questioning and turned away. It was obvious; their heart was NOT in this job.


It matters where our heart is. If the core of our being is happy, joyful, at peace, secure, content it’s going to show. So will the opposite. As Proverbs 4:23 says the center of our being matters. Now a great truth of humanity is we can choose the condition of our heart. We can choose to forgive and melt away bitterness. We can choose to be content and push back that insatiable wanting. We can choose to enjoy the moment and ignore the ‘what-ifs.’ Our choice affects our heart. Jesus put it this way…

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we treasure and value will shape the center of our being, which in turn influences our actions. It was obvious what that first worker treasured. I’m not sure what that other worker valued, but it was not the job at hand. What do the actions of your life say about your heart?


Now what make things a bit difficult is we were born with some heart issues (see Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:15-20). Yet God wants to give us a new heart if we so choose.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I (God) will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

That’s why King David of ancient Israel, after making a mess of things when his heart got him into all kinds of trouble, prayed this…

Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Turning to God in prayer is key for us experiencing this transformation.

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.


That amazing worker inspired me to think about my heart and what I treasure. I know I need God’s work on my heart because it’s all too easy to treasure things that influence my heart in a not-so-great way. Here’s a challenge from God’s Word…

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.


Church is a great place to be open to God’s work on our heart. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need


Making good heart choices along with you,



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Let’s Give Back!

I heard a story a while back that rocked my thinking. Maybe it will challenge yours. I am not sure if this happening was true, but enough of it sounds believable that it could have happened. It’s a story about a storeowner who built up quite a good business as a small town hardware store. It was one of those stores that had everything and if they did not have the unique piece of hardware you were looking for, they knew how to find it. The employees were both young and old and very helpful, having a great customer service attitude. Many of the students in the town worked at the store and were considered family. The storeowner had a heart for his community: sponsoring local teams, helping his employees with college expenses, giving service time and finances to local charities and town projects, and also giving back to the community with discounted, and many times free, items to the town’s public works and maintenance shops.


Well, the recession hit and the business was moving along at a very slow pace. The storeowner had to dip into his personal savings to keep some of his most needy employees working. Regardless, he kept giving back as he was able. One day, when one of his friends, who was fairly unscathed by the recession, promoted in his company with hefty bonuses, and able to buy a new, bigger house on the other side of town, came in to the hardware store. This friend and the owner went through the whole store, bringing more and more stuff up to the checkout counter: new faucets, new doors and matching hardware, new light fixtures, new outdoor lighting, even a new lawn mower! The storeowner was ecstatic! He could finally make payroll. This purchase would bring in much needed revenue.


As an enthusiastic cashier rang up the order and was just about to announce the grand total, the friend reached over to the storeowner and said, “Hey Buddy, how about the old ‘friends and family discount’?” The storeowner was stunned, and little befuddled. If he gave him a discount, much of his profits would be gone. The storeowner answered back, “Well, Bill, this has been a tough year. You know how bad it’s been.” Bill looked a bit stunned, but smiled back and said, “Awe, come on Frank. What about just 10%?” Frank took a firm stance, looked Bill in the eye and said, “Why not give me the ‘friends and family blessing’ and pay 10% more!” Wow! That makes us think!


How would you respond if you were Bill? The reality is, it is so easy to be just like Bill, looking to get a deal or a discount over giving back. We rarely think of giving back to the companies that have blessed us with their good service, good products, or good merchandise. Now, we may not have to volunteer to pay 10% more, but we can leave a good tip, refer people to their store, or show a little customer loyalty. The notion here is to shift from getting to giving back. To give back to the businesses we frequent, but also to the cities, churches, schools, and other organizations around us. To give back, not get, not volunteering to be seen or for what we get out of helping, but to serve just because that’s what good people do. The Bible challenges us to give back.

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

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.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


Now yes, there is a blessing in giving back. But the blessing comes from God in His way.

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.

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.”


So let’s give back. Let’s be generous. Let’s serve, looking to purely help rather than to get or push our power around. Let’s give back and bless our communities and neighborhoods. How could you give back this week?


Church is also a great place not only to learn about giving back, but we can give back there as well. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need We would love to connect with you.


Seeking to give back along with you,



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You Matter!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


One great place to be reminded of God’s great love and our calling towards others is church. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need And yes, you matter to us!


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



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The Strength in Hope!

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


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

1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


Church is a great hope-filling place. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need


Seeking to exercise the strength of hope along with you,



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The Power of Choice

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


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


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

The choice to be kind or mean

The choice to love or hate

The choice to help or hurt

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

The choice to be wise or foolish

The choice to persevere or give up

The choice of humility or pride

The choice of keeping our word or not

The choice of integrity or deceit

The choice to initiate or do nothing

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


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

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


Choose to be helpful and find hope instead of fear.

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


Choose wisdom and seek to be both inquisitive and curious.

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


Choose to participate and not just spectate.

Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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


Choose to know God more…

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

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.


We have no idea of what might happen in the future, but utilizing the power of choice and choosing to follow God’s Word will yield good fruit. Why not give it a try? If you are already making good godly choices, then seek to step it up a notch. Attending church regularly can help. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need


Seeking to exercise the power of choice along with you,


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It’s Time for Something New

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


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


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


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


What do I appreciate about last year?

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

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

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

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


What am I looking forward to this next year?

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

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


What am I worried about?

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

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

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


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

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

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


Church can be a place to help in our renewal. If you do not already have a church where you attend, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has all the information you would need


Seeking to accomplish something new along with you, Mike

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