To BElieve or Not to BElieve

I had the “Santa talk” with the kids a few weeks ago.

Three kids fidgeting in their seats as I explained Santa. We explored real and not real. “Is daddy real?” “YES!”, they all agreed. Well, that’s a relief. “Is Mickey Mouse real?” “NO!” No, Mickey Mouse is a cartoon. “Is Santa Claus real?” With confused looks, as if they knew the right answer, but were unsure of how to answer that, they gave a mix of yes and no. I went on to explain that Santa was not real, but the reason we acknowledge Santa was to remember the spirit of giving. I went on to explain about the legends of a man named St. Nicholas. I told them how people remember his generosity by a tradition of giving. I told them that they will still get a Santa gift from us and I wanted them to start thinking about one person they could give a Santa gift to each year. I explained how remembering the birth of Jesus was the central focus of Christmas for our family. We give gifts because of the gift we were given in Jesus. Many questions and stories followed my presentation, but in the end, I’m pretty sure they still believe in Santa.

There are certain things that you just cannot convince people of. They will either believe or they won’t. At Christmas I think of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. We understand how great a gift we have been given when we realize how desperately we need Him.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” Romans 6:20-21

This is where it starts. The belief that we are all dead in sin. All of creation, all of nature is under the curse of sin. Sin, the rejection of God and all His righteousness.

Jesus says in Luke 13: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

1 John 1:8-9 teaches us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So we believe that sin has sentenced all of us to death, every single one of us. The Good News is that we are called to repentance that leads to life. This is the gift! It’s a gift because repentance is only available because Christ has died as the atoning sacrifice for all who believe. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Like my kids and Santa, I cannot make them believe and I’m not sure I want to MAKE them believe. At some point they will come to that conclusion themselves (maybe) and hopefully our talk will help with that revelation. In the same way, what I say will not make you believe, but when you come to that revelation through the Holy Spirit, hopefully this will help you along. I never want to try to force anyone to believe at risk of an insincere or misguided faith. Only the Holy Spirit convicts and transforms. Salvation and repentance, that is a gift of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 Merry Christmas to you all. -jason

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Good Things Up Ahead

My morning commute is pretty amazing. At the edge of Hawaii Kai I pull up to the Kaiwi Coastline. The early morning sun rises through the scattered clouds and makes them glow. Waves playfully crash upon the sandy shores. As I make my way around the hill near Makapu’u I descend upon breathtaking scenery. A couple tiny islands are scattered across the glittery ocean. The Eastern shoreline makes a sharp transition up the majestic slopes of the Ko’olau Mountains. Occasionally a rainbow dives off the sheer cliff’s into the ocean below. God’s beauty is overwhelming.

The awesome scenery continues along the shorelines of Waimanalo, but you can’t take your eyes of the road for too long, because you never know when you’ll need to stop. Anyone who has made the commute through Waimanalo knows exactly what I am talking about. One road in and one road out. If there is anything that stops the traffic, your commute gets set back a little. Many things could cause a stop in traffic, but commonly I’ve noticed cars stop to let other cars turn in from the side roads or parking lots. It’s an expression of ALOHA that I noticed in a unique way in Waimanalo. While drivers can have a lot of ALOHA in Hawaii, drivers in Waimanalo seem to be on the look out for people trying to turn and make an intentional effort to stop.

It may set me back 5-10 minutes, depending on the day, but I’m okay with it. If positive gestures of kindness and ALOHA require a little extra time, it’s worth it.

I don’t always know what is causing the back up and traffic, but knowing that these acts of kindness are common here, it’s given me a better perspective. It’s helped me to be a little more patient.

Perhaps you are stuck in traffic. I’m not just talking about sitting in your car. Maybe you are waiting on a job. You could be close to retirement. It might be a child that is not quite at the place you were hoping they’d be. Your plans could be delayed for one reason or another. You are in a place that you don’t really want to be, you really would like to be a few more miles ahead. It’s frustrating.

Remember that there might be good things happening ahead. Isn’t it worth it to wait if your expectation is that there are good things happening ahead? We don’t know sometimes, but if we put our hope in positive things, it makes the wait more tolerable. 

As a Christian I know there are good things ahead. I don’t really know what it looks like, but I know I’ve experienced the glory of God in my life and it will be so much greater later. So I wait, in traffic, but I wait in patience. Romans 8:25 says: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

On a smaller scale, there are good things happening all the time. We may not see them, but they are happening. There are gestures of kindness and ALOHA along the road and sometimes it’s necessary that traffic gets backed up a little. Be patient. Believe that there are good things up ahead. -jason

 

Permanently Temporary

IMG_6261This is a picture of a gate that blocks Henry (our dog) from escaping from the yard. When we got Henry it was a process of figuring out the nooks and crannies that he could escape from. The obvious one was this stairwell. This gate was laying around the yard and I just leaned it up against the stairs. It was good enough for now, but it was just temporary. Eventually I would put hinges on it so we can open and close the gate without having to lift it or drag it. It’s been over a year and “eventually” hasn’t come. This gate might be permanently temporary.

Every time I see this gate I think, “Okay, I need to put those hinges on.” Then it makes me think of all the other projects and repairs I have to do around the house. If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Tomorrow I’ll get to it”….

This gate is not a pressing matter. It would be more convenient to have the hinges, but it still functions. There are things that are more pressing that are left for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was all alone. Being from Japan, her English was minimal and she relied on my grandfather a lot. I visited her regularly during my breaks between classes. Eventually she had health issues and required dialysis treatments three times a week. She could no longer live alone. She lived with us at first, but the stairs were too much to handle. She moved around to different relatives’ homes, but eventually ended up in a care home. All alone with communication barriers, I needed to visit her soon. Too many times I said, “Tomorrow I’ll go.” She passed shortly after being in the home. I still think about that to this day.

In James chapter 4, God’s Word says, “13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and it’s actually arrogant to believe you will have a tomorrow. While somethings can be put off till tomorrow, others shouldn’t be taken for granted. Tomorrow may never come.

As a Christian our priority is a right relationship with God. Jesus holds our tomorrows. He calls to us daily and we tell the Author of tomorrow, “I’ll get to you later.”

We know what we should do. We know where our attention should go. God, our marriages, our families, our loved ones…how are we treating these areas of life? What are you putting off till tomorrow? We might say to ourselves, “this is just for now” and years later discover that our choices have become permanently temporary and tomorrow never arrived. -jason

New Realities

This past week I started my new job. It was a tough couple of days, much harder than I expected.

It was a process of saying goodbye to co-workers and friends from my previous employment so it didn’t really hit me. I remember one of the last things I said before I left was, “It doesn’t feel like I’m leaving. I hope I don’t drive here next week on accident!”

I didn’t. I made the drive in the opposite direction. Kind of symbolic in a way. When I checked in at my new job, reality hit me. Reality caught me with a cheap shot right in the face. I don’t usually feel lonely, but I did that first day. Suddenly it was real, I won’t be back at the church I worked at for the last 4 1/2 years. This was my new reality. Honestly, it kind of sucked.

That day I got home and Emily’s friend was over. She worked with Emily a while ago, but had to leave the island and seek out treatment for cancer. Frequent and on going medical procedures, hair loss, lifestyle changes and permanent impacts on her life were her new reality. I’m certain the adjustment was tough, I just cannot imagine. Here she was, months later, pressing on, keeping a positive attitude in her new reality.

My father had part of his leg amputated when he was in his 20’s. Most people don’t even realize he has a prosthetic leg. Again, how does someone deal with that? How do you go on? He did. He got married, raised children, had a successful career, still went hunting and fishing regularly and accepted his new reality.

So many people are encountering new realities that take an adjustment. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is as simple as switching jobs, other times it’s drastic, like physical impairments or loss of a loved one. We face the new reality, then we learn to move forward in it.

Have you faced changes recently? What’s your new reality?

The change and challenges may seem insurmountable, but do not lose heart. You will get adjusted to your new reality. Remember also, change is inevitable, so keep looking forward and be prepared for the next part of the journey.

The best path to take is the one that the Lord lays out ahead of you. There may be oppression, there may be deserts, there may be many challenges, but when you know the final plan, it’s all worth it. When you seek the Lord with all your heart each moment of life becomes the reality that leads to one glorious destination. No fault of man, no poor choice, no hurdle of life will keep you from the grace of God. (cf. Romans 8:38-39)

Embrace your new reality and discover the possibilities that lay ahead on the journey. I know for me I will get settled, find my place, and by the grace of God, bring Him glory in my work. Know also that you are not alone, not only does the Lord desire for you to call to Him, but I want to walk with you in the changes of life, the hurdles, and the challenges. In whatever way I can, I will support you in your new realities. -jason

Chew Before You Swallow

I’ve always been a fast eater. The problem with that is, I tend to not chew my food well before I swallow it. When my grandparents were alive my grandmother was convinced that what contributed to my grandfather getting cancer was because he didn’t chew his food well. A good friend from high school told me once that he actually chews his food 45 times before he swallows it! Amazing. 

Chewing your food properly is very important to your health. Chewing your food helps to produce saliva that has properties to help breakdown food and aid in digestion.

One of my pet peeves is when you are talking to someone and you know they are not listening. This is something I know I need to be aware of and something I am grateful for in my counseling training. Listening, and not just hearing, is the process in which we “chew” on what other people are saying. When we take in what people are saying before we chew on it, we don’t digest it well and it causes interrelational problems.

Chew the food that other people feed you, chew it well. Listen, really seek to breakdown what people are saying before you swallow. Avoid giving a quick answer. Avoid formulating your own answers before they are done speaking. Try to not be in a rush. Just like eating, when we rush, we don’t chew properly. This can cause much complications.

The better you chew on what is being told you, the better you can digest the communication between you and others. The better your digestion, the better the overall health of your body of relationships. Chew before you swallow. -jason

 

Let’s Make Pretend

While my kids play I overhear many things that are very interesting. One word that is repeated often in their play is “pretend”. As an example Aubrey will say, “Hey guys, pretend this is a castle and I am the princess and you are the sister and you are the cat.” (Yup, they often make Jonah be the cat or puppy.) Then Kamryn will chime in and say, “Yeah, but pretend this is a magic wand and I can make my own castle and I am the other princess.” Then Jonah will try to squeeze in his two cents with, “But, but, but pretend, guys, guys, pretend I’m a cat that can fly and I fly over your castles.” Then it goes on and on.

It’s great. I think the use of a child’s imagination is healthy exercise. Imagination that is allowed to be set free can open the doors for creativity and progressive thought. To compliment that development comes the ability to differentiate between real and pretend.

Seems to me that there is a level of pretend that happens with adults that is not so healthy. Often “let’s make pretend” leads to further issues and complications.

Our game of pretend is usually done in an effort to preserve a perception of positivity.  It manifests itself in friendships where we pretend that life is great. We pretend we are parents that have it together, we pretend to have more femininity or masculinity than we really do. We pretend to be more knowledgeable or more athletic or more wealthy than we really are. It can appear through social media and even in our face to face interactions. We don’t want to reveal struggles and hurts, we don’t want to let others know they have a leg up on us so we engage in “let’s make pretend” we have our lives together. Sure we moan and lament over our messy homes, but yet when people come over we make sure it’s pretty darn clean. I’m guilty of this myself. I scramble and clean, because I want guests to be comfortable, but then I say, “Sorry the house is so messy…” Why is that?

In the midst of conflict we like to play “let’s make pretend” everything is fine. Maybe we do it for ourselves, maybe we do it because we think it’s best for the group. I’ve come to realize it’s not best for anyone.

We do it in our families, in our marriages, in our friendships, in our workplace and sadly even in our churches.

The problem is, when we make pretend all is well when it is not, reality will have to collide with it at some point. While peace may be kept for the short term, you can be certain it will not last. Eventually play time will end and things will unravel. Imagination can be a wonderful thing when we can discern that from reality. Let’s stop making pretend at the expense of what is real. -jason

As Seen on TV

My kids probably watch too much TV. When Emily was pregnant with Aubrey we said they wouldn’t watch TV, that didn’t last long. We do try to limit it, but they probably watch 1 to 2 hours of TV per day at home.

One thing on TV that bothers me the most is infomercials. On the kids shows there are a tons of thing that they are selling. Magic Bubbles, Animal Pillows, glow in the dark toys, water play toys, and on and on. Ever thing my kids see they WANT IT. “OOH I want that!” “Can I get that for my birthday?”

I began thinking a lot about wants and needs. While we all have basic needs, even our needs have shifted to wants. We are a society of abundance. I have even had homeless people turn away food because they didn’t like a particular thing. We need food to survive, yet we survive off of what we want. We Yelp the best Thai restaurant in our area because we feel like eating Thai. We need shelter, but we dwell in the most extravagant places. The want of design and comfort overwhelms the simple need for shelter. We need water, but we want it to be a certain brand that is filtered in the Swiss Alps from melting snow.

In the church this is also true. We need Jesus, but most of us ebb and flow in and out of a relationship of need and want. Some even only know Jesus as a want.

So what happens when our needs turn into wants. We take it for granted. Toys get tossed under the bed or at the bottom of a pile, food and housing become large investments as they become disposable and easily replaced or cast out. Relationships are caught in conflict and torn apart. Worst of all, some will never truly know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, because you don’t just want the Savior, you need Him.

When you understand your need for Jesus, the Spirit transforms your life, radically. There is nothing more important than Jesus and you become fully dependent on Him. When you want Jesus, its on your terms and you put Him away when you no longer want him. When you need the Savior, you will turn to Him daily, throughout your day and constantly.

In all areas of life, we must consider our wants and our needs. If we live an “As Seen on TV” life, things become disposable and devalued. When we give careful thoughts to our needs we rediscover the things we treasure and we can separate them from the things that are excess. -jason

Good Soil

Emily has been inspired to have a raised bed garden. She went to the hardware store and  picked up the wood, some compost, some fertilizer and some seeds.

Yesterday, I put the garden box together and I prepared some of the soil from our yard for the garden. In preparing the soil, I dug up piles of it that was displaced in our construction, i sifted it through a screen box and threw out large rocks and weeds that were growing in it.

Shoveling dirt is not what I imagine my Saturdays being filled with, but hopefully it pays off. Preparing the soil to be mixed with the compost would be something that would provide the right minerals and nutrients to allow for the garden to grow. Having good soil will be a critical factor for seeds to grow.

How’s your soil?

Young and old, we are constantly having seeds planted in our lives. Some are weeds that seem to grow much easier, but need to be removed. Other seeds are life giving and they require good soil. Seeds will be planted in your life all the time from things we see on the television, conversations we have with co-workers and through many other things that we are exposed to.

Good soil contains the proper elements to give life to the seeds. Humility, goodness, patience and honesty are amongst the major components of good soil. We are life-long learners. There are always lessons. Once we think our garden is full, we miss out on so much.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”   Luke 8:15

May you sift through the good soil in your life and rejoice in the harvests to come. -jason

 

Good Deeds, Great Lesson

Last week a very close friend called me to meet up. He was in from California and wanted to share with me a financial company that he had been trying to establish himself in.

When I got to the little cafe he was sitting there with a business associate. This other gentleman was very nice and friendly. He was there to be the spokesperson for this financial program. My friend mostly sat back and listened.

During the presentation the gentleman mentioned building assets to pass on to the next generation. He said, “That’s our goal, building wealth that we can pass on to our kids.” I stopped him with a skeptical and screeching, “Weeeeelllll….” In recalling the story this is where my wife rolls her eyes.

I continue by reflecting on the dynamic of passing on wealth. Earlier we were talking about the fantasy world that people live in and how it seems to be growing with younger generations. I reflected on stories my parents told me and stories many of you have heard from your parents who were in that builder generation. Starting off as a young married couple, living in a small apartment, sleeping on a twin bed, eating sardines and rice for dinner. That generation gave blood sweat and tears to get where they are now. In turn, they wanted to build wealth for their kids so their kids wouldn’t have to go through what they went through. “Yet”, I pondered out loud, “how much of what they went to built the character of who they are now and what they have become?” Perhaps this is what feeds the unrealistic expectations of the next generation. I hear comments from the older generation toward the younger that they are too lazy. Shoot, I feel too lazy when I see what my parents do!

Eyes wide open because I am hijacking this presentation, the business associate says, “Yes, that is why we need to educate them.” I agreed wholeheartedly and added, “We need to teach them about Jesus and a Biblical understanding of money.” The wheels are spinning in his head, I can see it. “Well..”, he replies, ” sometime people pass on their wealth to their churches.” My eyes squinting in thought…I respond with a low, ‘Hmmm…about that….”

At this point he probably is wondering why in the world my friend set this meeting up.

I went on to question if there is a similar thing. I had been preparing for my sermon that Sunday and the scripture describe a comfortable church that was absent of the Holy Spirit. I shared way too much and way too passionately for a financial presentation, it just spewed out of me.

It was not my intention to hijack the meeting. He was a good guy and they were sharing a very significant product on a very important topic. It did make me think a lot about how well intended things like providing financial security for the next generation can have its detrimental effects.

It’s not a bad thing to provide financially for generations to come, its actually a very good thing. It’s also good to think about what impact that might have in the long run. What lessons and character traits are being overlooked when a good deed, results in unwelcome results? Never stop doing good and never stop helping others pursue greatness in themselves. -jason

Cruising Attitude

The captain just informed us that we have reached the cruising altitude of 40,000 feet. We are on our way home. After two weeks of travels, a 330am alarm let us know that it was time to load up the car and head to the airport. Car is returned, bags checked, security lines cleared, a stop for breakfast and coffee, and now we are on our way home.

From Oakland to Maui the flight was full. My seat was three rows in front of the rest of the family. I read a little, dozed off for a couple of minutes, but mostly I just sat there with my thoughts. Scary, right?

Thinking about the long travels that we had, I was exhausted. Can’t wait to be home. Then I start thinking about all the unpacking. Then back to work the next day, what a bummer. As I sit and sulk in my physical exhaustion and lamentation of getting back into the groove of life, I notice the people around me. There was a single guy a few rows ahead. He was wearing a “CREW” tag so assume he was just hoping a ride back home because he looked tired. Another family several rows ahead seemed to be returning home as well. When we were boarding, the father of the family angrily instructed his kids on their seating and steamed in his seat as people crammed into the plane. Still there were other dynamics going on.

Right next to me was Peter and his two daughters. Peter has family in Maui and they were going back for a visit. His younger daughter seemed excited to get there. “I hope Aunty Christy will be there!” she exclaimed. In front of me were a couple of young adults that belonged to a group of nine that were giddy about their vacation to Maui. To the left two young boys wearing their Warriors Championship t-shirts planned playfully for their time in Hawaii as with their parents sitting behind them listened in and smiled.

We are on the same plane, going to the same place, but we have very different destinations. These destinations and circumstances impact our attitudes, but inevitably we are responsible for the attitudes we have. There was another young man that was returning home, but he carried with him a giant hockey trophy. He seemed elated to be returning home with his prize. A woman sitting in the midst of the young adults in front of me was on a business trip to Hawaii and she was sharing with them how she was not looking forward to this trip.

Our church has been reading through the Proverbs. Proverbs 17:22 says:

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

As I observed all these people I made the decision to have a joyful heart. Joyful that I was able to spend time with people we loved, joyful that we have a home to return to, joyful that we have a life that is blessed. Most of all, I know my final destination. With my heart I believe and with my mouth I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and I know I have a home that I will return to with my Creator and Heavenly Father. It was a good thing too because our luggage was delayed! Still, joy remained.

Choose today to maintain a cruising attitude. When turbulence hits, when the flight is long, maintain a joyful heart. Consider your final destination. There is a God who loves you and wants to welcome you home. When you are clothed in God’s grace, it’s easy to maintain a cruising attitude. -jason