Rise Above The Storm

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I love social media almost as much as I hate social media.  It boggles my mind how news outlets are so quick to report what people are tweeting and posting online with social media as if it’s fact.  Who is the person posting?  Are they even qualified to give an informed opinion?  Why should we even care about someone with a staggering 63 followers on Twitter?  Twitter seems to have become the Wikipedia of mainstream news organizations.  I’ll say it loud and clear, “Hey Media, stop giving unqualified and uninformed people a voice!”

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As of this writing, the city of Houston has began to recover from one the worst floods to ever effect the United States but don’t worry, that doesn’t stop the haters from hating online, especially towards Pastor Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church.  Critics argue that he didn’t open his church doors soon enough.  Pastor Joel has said that his doors have always been open once they deemed the building safe from flooding itself.  People don’t seem to realize from the comfort of their own home that a church isn’t staffed with trained Police officers and emergency responders.  They also don’t realize that you don’t just open a building and let anyone in without supervision, even with supervision, it was a mess in the Superdome during hurricane Katrina.  People online are upset because the church staff didn’t rush down to open the doors, but instead made sure that their families and belongings were ok.  The staff of Lakewood was under the threat of the storm just like everyone else in the Houston area.

Various media outlets reporting on this story included Twitter screenshots with the report.  Since when has a random persons tweet or Facebook post become important enough to be reported as news?  I’m not saying that all tweets are not news, because a lot of it is, but some random, uninformed person is not news.  Back in the day if you had a problem with someone, you really had to take an effort to get the word out, now you can do in 3 seconds and move on and really never be held accountable on whether it was true or not.

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Hey, I believe in free speech and the right for people to have an opinion, whether it is informed or uninformed.  I just wish that the media wouldn’t keep giving these tweets a voice.  Get the person on the phone, challenge them, ask them how they got their information and the logic behind the criticism.  But no, it’s easier to search for the #hashtag for the exact quote that they want for the exciting story and go with it.

Just know that whatever you set out in life to do, you will always have the critics.  The critics will usually be those shooting you down from a distance.  I can’t think of a critic that has given hope to a hopeless situation.  To succeed in life, you have to outlast the critics.  You have to stay true to your calling and mission, not letting others pull you off track.  

I’m thankful for people like Joel Osteen who refuses to drop to the critics level and to not allow himself to be bullied by these, well, bullies, and to keep on doing what Lakewood has been doing for over 60 years, and that is helping and giving hope to people in need.  People will always be critical of those actually getting the job done.  Don’t let it stop you.  Ignore the critics, don’t drop to their level, and get the job done!

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If you want to help people in Houston, go to our site, www.arise.church/giving and choose Hope For Texas.  We as a church are giving to Convoy of Hope as they are actively distributing food and supplies to those in need.

Intentionality

There’s been one word going through my mind for the last couple of months, it’s the word intentionality.  Defined it means, “the fact of being deliberate or purposive”  I’ve been questioning myself about this word.  Have I been living life with intention?  I’ll be the first to admit that I hate yard work.  It’s never been my thing, but I do it out of necessity and to quiet the nagging of my wife 😉. 

I may not like it or know much about it but this I do know, anything good that is going to grow in your yard is almost 99% of the time done on purpose.  The fruit tree, the rose bush, the garden with your vegetables, don’t just appear, it took intention, planning, hard work, and maintenance to get it to grow.  I also know this, the bad things, like weeds for example, just grow.  They don’t need to be planted, fertilized, or even watered!  When we neglect our yards, they will eventually all be filled with weeds by default.

It’s a lot like our lives, neglect key areas, and they will quickly fall out of shape.  In order to have success in life, marriage, family, and ministry, there has to be an intentionality that we hone onto.  Like our yards, very rarely to good things just happen, we have to position ourselves in life.

I go to the gym, and I enjoy it, a lot.  I feel great after leaving the gym with a little pump.  I have more energy during the day and sleep better at night.  Here’s the thing, there are times when life is busy or I’m on a trip and I can’t make it into the gym for at least 5 days.  I always find it harder than normal to get back into the swing of things.  It’s not that I said that I don’t want to get in shape or have more energy or even that I’d rather not sleep good at night, I just drifted away, lost my focus and intentionality.  And that has to be the number one enemy to intentionality, drift.  It’s not that we say we quit the gym, I’m not going to church, or I want a divorce.  It’s the fact that we don’t say WE ARE going to the gym, I AM going to church, I WANT to make my marriage work.  We aren’t intentional in what we are going to do so we drift and fall back into the default of life.

The challenge for all of us is to live life with intentionality.  To set our course and fight the drift.  We live in a world where there are hundreds of things pulling us into hundreds of different directions.  More than ever, we need to set our course in life with intentionality.  Remember, the weeds will always just grow, it takes intentional preparation and planning to see the good things flourish in our life!  

Expectations

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I like eating at nice places.  I don’t get to do it often as we live in a small town, but the one or two times a year that I get the opportunity, I make the most of it.  Nice restaurants really work hard at creating an experience that makes the diner expect something great.  The lighting, service, dishes, silverware, etc., all play a role in making the food taste even better than it is.  In fact, when I go to a nice place to eat, I plan my whole day around it.  Eat an early breakfast, maybe just a light snack to keep the stomach primed at lunch, then a big dinner!  Even if my stomach is growling around 4, I won't go to McDonalds for a burger, I’ll keep that stomach empty because I know that something good is coming up for dinner.

Expectation needs to be apart of our spiritual lives as well.  I believe that expectation will not only determine what we let into our lives but what we let out of our of lives.  Followers of Jesus can often look at their lives from the perspective that we have to give up so many things to be a “good Christian.”  In reality, we need to have the perspective that giving things up doesn’t mean we have less, but that now, we have room for more! 

The woman with the issue of blood was someone who had no other options in life.  She spent everything she had to get better but her bleeding wouldn’t stop.  According to the Jewish law at that time, she was considered unclean.  No one could touch her or anything else that she touched.  If she sat on a chair, used a utensil, slept in a bed, or did anything else with anything, it was considered unclean.  I can’t imagine the isolation that she must of felt over those 12 years as her friends and family had to separate themselves from her.  But the beautiful thing about this lady is that instead of giving up, she looked up.  She said, “If I can just touch the hem of his clothes, I’ll be healed.”  With no other options, she looked to Jesus.  She had an expectation that she would be healed by touching the Savior.

I don’t know where you are in life today, but don’t give up, look up and expect a miracle!  I love the fact that she spoke her miracle into existence.  In fact, you could say that her expectation framed her miracle.  She said, “If I touch His clothes.”  No one told her what to say, Jesus didn’t tell her what to say.  In simple terms, she made it up, and God honored her faith, met her right where she was in life.  The unclean touched the clean and the unclean was made clean.  Jesus is in the business of making dirty things pure again.  He isn’t intimidated by how filthy we or anyone else is.  I heard Sy Rogers say, “God rather have you dirty than not at all.”  Expect more from God, let expectation frame the miracles in your life.  Remember what Ephesians 3:20 says, 

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

God can always do more in our lives.  Expect something great this year!

The Places You Will Go

I like having a plan.  Before I was married, my bride to be and I had a plan. We were going to do some traveling, have our first child three years into marriage, have our last child two years after that, and I wanted to get really good at golf.  Well, our plan didn’t go as we imagined. We got pregnant two months into our marriage, didn’t get to travel, had our two children, and as a surprise to us a third child. After all of that, I’m still not very good at golf.

 

I think about our church, I had a plan there also. We were going to stay in our rental space in the shopping mall until our own building was complete.  Well, we got booted from the mall to the old Kress Theatre with no building done. Soon we will be moving again and although we are progressing, we still are not done with our building yet.

 

There was a young couple in the Bible who had a plan.  Their names were Joseph and Mary.  They were young teenagers who had a plan to get married and start a life together.  I’m sure they were just like us, dreaming about the future, what life would be like, the children they would raise together and the places that they would like to see.  One day, an angel visited Mary and everything that they had envisioned changed.  Mary found out that even though she had never been intimate with a man, she was now pregnant.  Imagine Joseph’s shock when Mary broke the news to him. You see, at least Mary saw the angel.  Joseph had to take her word for it, and honestly, that had to of been tough, it would be for me.  All of their plans were turned upside down. 

"The Christmas story is not just about Jesus being born in a manger, it’s also a story of faith and trust."

I’ve come to realize that yes we have plans but God also has a plan for our life.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  The Christmas story is not just about Jesus being born in a manger, it’s also a story of faith and trust.  They had to trust God and have faith that it really was going to be ok.  You may have plans for your future but don’t be surprised if God totally changes the entire thing and puts you on a different path in life.  He did it to Joseph and Mary, and He is still doing it today.  God knows what we need better than we know ourselves.  Continue to trust Him every step of the way and know that His plans are better than any we could ever conceive on our own.

Compassion

A few years back, I went on a trip.  Well, not just any trip, but one of the best trips of my life.  It was too the Philippines, with about 10 other pastors and it was organized by Compassion International.  Not only did I get to build some great friendships with some amazing pastors from Hawaii, I got to see first hand how Compassion International was teaming up with sponsors and local church ministries to change the lives of children.  To literally give them hope for their life.  We got to visit actual homes where these children live with their families.  Many of them lived in shacks.  In all honesty, most dogs in America experience better accommodations.  It was truly an eye opening experience.  I also got to see systemic poverty and how it affects the children in these third world countries.  To sum it up, your grandparents were poor, your parents are poor, you will be poor and your children will be poor.  You can never break out of that cycle, it’s like you're drowning and you can never hold your head up long enough to get a breath of air.

I’ve always loved this verse:  

Matthew 14:14, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

Jesus had compassion on the people and it compelled Him to do something.  What has compassion compelled you to do lately?  Maybe you’ve done a lot, maybe life has been too hectic and you haven’t had time to do anything.  Even in Jesus’s busy life, He made time to reach out to those less fortunate.  Compassion International is a great ministry to team up with in reaching the unfortunate in this world.  For just $38 a month, you can help a child break free of systemic poverty and help give them hope for a future.  This Sunday, October 25, is our Compassion Sunday at Sure Foundation Hilo.  I want to encourage you to come to church with a heart of compassion and let compassion compel you to do something in the life of a child.  If you already sponsor a child, thank you!  Write your child a letter online and let them know you love them.  Remember, Jesus was not just moved by meetings, schedules, and calendars, He let compassion into His life and we should too.

What's Your Aim?

A few days ago, I came across a video (https://youtu.be/wWPOG_hxkTE) that simply warmed my heart.  It was a clip of a couple who have been married for 73 years.  You see the husband’s wife laying in the hospital bed living her final days.  Her husband stands over her and affectionately touches her face as they both exchange the words, “I love you”.  In a moment that would melt the hardest heart, he begins to sing to her what appears to be her favorite song.  It was truly a touching moment.  It was also a great reminder in my life of what I’m aiming for.

I understand that not every marriage will work out.  Marriage involves people and whenever people are involved, anything can happen. However, it breaks my heart in this day and age how many people will throw away their marriages. I’m talking about the people that simply quit because they don’t feel happy, excited, in love, or are just plain bored. I wish more people would grit their teeth, set their hearts and minds, and commit to building a healthy marriage together. I didn’t personally know the couple in the video that I saw. I reckon that it’s safe to say that not every one of those 26,662 days they spent together were always happy or exciting, but they stayed true to their vows!  I’m positive that there were days that were hard, that they had problems they had to work through, and that there were times when they needed to forgive one another.

If more of us would have a picture of what we want our last days to look like, we’d live our present days as steps to that future. 

So my question to you is what are you aiming for?  Is it just to be happy in the now or are you thinking 30-40 years down the road? If more of us would have a picture of what we want our last days to look like, we’d live our present days as steps to that future.  My target is simple, at the end of my life, I want to be married to the same wife and I want my kids to still love me.  That’s my goal and I’m taking steps now to arrive at that destination one day.  Today I encourage you to reevaluate your aim and learn from this couple that possibly the most romantic day of your marriage still lies ahead!

Memorials and Celebrations

Today is September 11.  A somber day in American history.  A day when thousands of people lost their lives and countless other lives were changed forever.  I’ll never forget the early morning phone call I got at home from my mother to turn on the television.  I sat there and stared in horror as the towers burned and one by one collapsed.  My mind couldn’t grasp the carnage and reason behind the savage attacks.  We saw a whole new dimension of religious fanaticism.  Those images will be forever etched in my mind as I’m sure it is for so many of you.  

Today, all around the country, flags are at half-staff, people are holding memorials, taking time to remember the lives lost on that fateful day.  In the midst of all the pain and sorrow, I am most perplexed by the thought that in other places of the world, people are not holding memorials but celebrations. (Celebration)  Celebrating the fact that thousands of lives were lost.  Celebrating what they feel is an advancement of their cause, a victory really for them.  Taking pleasure in our misery.  It’s the world that we live in

 “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

I’ve come to realize after working with people for so many years that there will always be people that take pleasure in misery.  People that rejoice when you hurt most.  People that will mourn in your face but snicker behind your back.  People that don’t strive to elevate their own lives to another level but rather are pleased when people are pulled down to where they are.  Why is it so hard for us to rejoice at times when others succeed?  A lot of it has to do with our insecurities we deal with in our own lives.   It says in Romans 12:15,  “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”  I know it’s a challenge, I’ve been there myself, but I’d like to challenge you today, don’t rejoice in the misery of people, feel their pain, empathize with them.  Don’t ever hesitate to genuinely rejoice when good things happen to them.  Having a big spirit will allow us to rejoice when people rejoice and to feel their pain when they hurt.  Today is a good reminder that there will always be people that will rejoice when we hurt but it’s also a good reminder to guard our hearts and to remember what Romans 12:15 says.  

Have a great week!