Hurricane Warning

Hurricane Lane came barreling toward the island state of Hawaii. An intense Category 5 Major Hurricane presented potentially catastrophic outcomes.

If you have lived in Hawaii for any significant amount of time, you likely have been around during some natural disaster warnings. Tsunami threats and hurricane/storm warnings are not uncommon. When these things happen, people start to prepare.

When I went to Costco there was a pallet of about 20 cases of water left. An employee was standing there loading the water into carts for customers limiting everyone to two cases. I stopped to get gas and there was only diesel and regular grade left, the lines were long. Everyone was preparing, and that is a good thing. Always be prepared.

There is a parable in the Bible that Jesus tells regarding the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth. In this parable of the ten virgins, they are waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. They have lamps so that they will be able to participate in the celebration of the wedding feast between the bride (the Church) and the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ). Five of those virgins did not bring extra oil and therefore were unable to participate when the bridegroom arrived. (Matthew 25)

In the chapter preceding this one, Jesus gives the background to the need for this parable. Enraged with the Pharisees, He tells his disciples whats to come: 

“Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

This is just a sample of the signs of what is to come, the return of the Lord.

The Christian understanding is that we are all prone to turn from God. That’s just our nature. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the redeeming of many who He has called back to Him. In the end a storm is coming. There will be destruction, but those who are prepared will live.

Like a natural disaster, we should always be prepared, not just at the last minute. With the return of Jesus, we are already seeing the effects of the storm and we already have heralds proclaiming the coming storm. Will you be prepared?

Hurricane Lane has not passed us yet. We are not yet in the clear. The damage from heavy rains are already being broadcast on the news. Pray that it might move on with minimal further damage. This storm will eventually pass, but consider the spiritual storm that is brewing in our world. Be prepared, there is only one shelter available for this storm. -jason

 

Advertisements

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

Regular Maintenance

Most people hope to own a home someday. When we moved back to Hawaii the housing market left us feeling hopeless. We were fortunate that my parents offered to have us build our home on their property. It’s nice to have a place to call your own. Except for all the home maintenance things that pop up regularly!

Things you don’t think of, things you don’t see. One thing is piping issues. You don’t realize something is wrong until there are back ups and overflows. A few months ago I had to snake our kitchen drain pipes. Not fun. Last week I noticed the washer was leaking. I removed all the hosing from the inside of the washer and the drain tube was clogged with major build up. Disgusting. Then the kids bathroom sink was not draining well. When I pulled out the drain stopper I discovered a sticker and some tape along with a bunch of unrecognizable gunk. NASTY!

It’s around this time that the Lord was showing me that I was starting to overflow. The bitterness that had been building in my heart over the last few months over a particular situation was creating a clog and build up in my “heart pipes”. All the junk was not draining properly because of this one major blockage.

Immediately I turned to the Lord in repentance and shame for my wicked heart. It was overflowing into all areas of my life. The internalized bitterness was even having physical affects on me. I needed to “clean out” the bitterness that was blocking the flow of everything else. The words of David in the 51st psalm came to mind. When Nathan called him out on his sin with Bathsheba, David cries out to the Lord in repentance. Within this chapter of repentance comes the lines many are familiar with: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

If we are a temple of the living God, we must make sure we are conducting regular maintenance of the home which His Spirit dwells. The “heart pipes” get clogged easily by hate, resentment, jealousy, anger, bitterness and so much more. When we are not aware of it, we don’t process everything else very well, the good and bad. Then we overflow into the lives of others. Be sure to seek regular maintenance. Time in God’s Word, times of contemplative prayer, awareness of the Lord in all areas of life and trusting, intimate relationships with others, these are things that we can do on a regular basis for maintenance of our lives. -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

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

 

Fleeting Beauty

Fleeting Beauty

Hopefully I can make the Koko Head morning hikes a regular thing. It was only my third time and it actually seemed harder. During one of my rests a man that was on his second round trip stopped and pointed out this flower to me.

I believe this is called the Hylocereus undatus. It’s a flower that blooms from a cactus plant, the same plant that produce dragonfruit. It is said that this cactus was first planted in Hawaii in the mid 1800’s by a member of the Bingham family on the walls that surround Punahou school. For this reason, some know this plant in Hawaii as “Panini o kapunahou”. This plant can now be found in different parts of Oahu and some of the other islands. The unique thing about this flower is it’s lifespan. This flower only blooms at night and drops off by midday and dies. It’s a beautiful flower that lets off a wonderful fragrance. In the dark, I wouldn’t have even noticed it had it not been pointed out to me. I’m so glad I was able to see it.

When we look at scripture there is a frequent warning about beauty. Beauty is never a bad thing, not at all. Yet there is danger in beauty becoming the focus of our lives. Too often this is something that plagues women more than men, although it’s more apparent for both these days. The expectation of a society to what is beautiful places unnecessary stress on young women. This is a timeless issue going back to Biblical times. In Proverbs 31:29-31 the scripture says, 

“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

This scripture clarifies that many women have done well, excellently even, but there is one that surpasses, the one who fears the Lord. In some translations it says that beauty is fleeting. It doesn’t last. Charm is often an external expression of people pleasing and platitudes that do not genuinely reflect the true heart. When we center our lives on things that are temporary, our pursuits are in vain. Be cautious of being distracted by that which attracts in the night and in the darkness only to fade away in the light. Focus on what is eternal. And what is that? What is everlasting?

Enjoy beauty all around you. It is from the Lord. Don’t miss that which blooms in the night, don’t let fleeting beauty pass you by, for these things are from the Lord. As you recognize beauty, as you enjoy the charming and beautiful things around you, look to the Light, the Creator of all that is beautiful, the everlasting and eternal God of all. In Him is our true praise. In Him we find true beauty. -jason

*For a broader study on vanity in life, read through Ecclesiastes.

 

 

Watch Your Step

Watch Your Step

Last week I turned over in bed and discovered one of my children had climbed in with us. It was Aubrey. I can’t remember the last time Aubrey came into our bed in the middle of the night. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep, but Aubrey is just too big now. I picked her up and carried her back to bed. Now I lay in bed, still dark and I suddenly feel wide awake. I look at the clock 3:55. Then I get the thought to hike Koko Head. I had thought about doing it one morning, but could never get up in time. Well, I’m up. So I pack some water, put on some shoes and head out.

As I’m walking in the dark I have my little flashlight directing my way. Alone hiking up a dark hill I have a lot of time to think. My thoughts turn to the Lord and I confess my burdens to Him. I stop for a rest. Turn around and sit on the track and shine it down the hill. My little flashlight can’t see very far. Hmm…kind of like life.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The imagery is placing you in a dark setting, a place where you need the light. You are navigating through by the light of God’s Word. Like the flashlight I used to hike with, you can see maybe a few steps in front of you, you might not see your final destination. You stay focused on what you can see, right in front of you, that’s all you need to see for now. Just like the Koko Head Trail, if you have a misstep, it could be disastrous.

It was a good word for me. Maybe you too feel like it’s hard to see what’s ahead, maybe it seems like you are walking in the dark. Focus on the steps in front of you. Take it one step at a time. If you can’t even see that, pause and turn your thoughts to the Lord. Sincere time in prayer and scripture will be your guide. The truth of God Word is the avenue of the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Matthew 6:34 also says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Be encouraged friend. With the Lord directing you, you will reach the top, there will be a sunrise over the darkness and the view from the top of the Lord’s mountain is breathtaking. Watch your step, don’t look too far ahead, be strong and courageous. You WILL get to the top. -jason

IMG_5534.jpg

Excess Ability

Excess Ability

Every last Saturday of the month Olivet Baptist Church operates a Food Pantry. Over a hundred people come to our campus to collect a bag of food that has been purchased from the Food Bank or donated from members and other supporters of the Food Pantry Ministry.

One donation that arrives every month comes from a member of another church who collects baked goods from a local grocer. These baked goods are near expiration or even a little past the expiration date. The amount varies, but there are often several boxes that we give out. There are rolls, baguettes, cupcakes, cookies, and many other baked goods.

On one hand, it is wonderful that we are able to pass out the excess items that are only going to be thrown out. We all have excess. That’s the reality. If you are reading this on your computer or smart phone or tablet, chances are, you have excess and you have the ability to give out of that excess. No matter how poor you might think you are, there’s a chance there is excess that you can afford to give. No matter how buys you are, there’s a chance there is excess time to give. No matter how exhausted you are, there’s a chance you have excess energy to give. If we look well, we have the ability to give out of our excess.

On the other hand, I think about what we are giving. Every nutritional health person I talk to seem to agree on a few items that we should avoid or limit in our diet. Sugar, flour, salt are often always in the top five lists. These baked goods contain all of those. So we give out of our excess, but it’s leftover, it’s old, it’s not the best quality, and we are going to throw it out anyway. Is that what we offer people? Are we giving them our resources, our time, our energy that we are planning to throw out anyway? The leftovers?

In scripture when God desires the first fruits I don’t think it’s because He desires quality products, but I believe He desires quality hearts. 1 Corinthians 15:20 identifies Jesus as the “first fruit” of the dead. God had to come in the form of man to be offered up in death so that as the only one without sin He might be raised back into life so those who follow Him may also find life after death. We then become a first fruit of mankind because of Christ.

It’s the quality of what we offer. Even in excess, what are we giving? We have resources, time and energy to offer. Where are you expending that? Once we have prioritized, we still find we have the ability to give the excess. To whom will you give the excess? Who in your life has the greatest needs? -jason

 

Upright and Free

 

The other day there was a police car behind me on the road. Immediately I start doing a mental check. Is my registration and safety check updated??? Was I speeding??? Did I pick up my phone??? Was my seatbelt off???

Everything was in check, but I still had this sense of uneasiness. Why? I’m not doing anything wrong? I usually set my cruise control to 5MPH over the speed limit, but I dropped it down to about 3 MPH over, just in case. When I finally convinced myself that I was doing nothing wrong, I felt at peace.

Fear, anxiety, anger, defensiveness, all these things come out when we are not walking upright. I have not always been a very lawful driver, so it’s embedded in my brain to react when a police car is behind me. When you are lawful, you have nothing to fear.

This is true in every area of life. When certain emotions are triggered inside of us, we need to ask ourselves, is it something I am doing to make me feel this way? Certainly if you are not upright in all that you are doing, you open the door to react in certain ways. When things are hidden and in the dark, you fear the light as it may expose your deceit. You become captive to lies and wrongdoing. When you live upright and true, you can find freedom in that.

Like many people, I first became a Christian and I was fearful that I was going to do something wrong. I looked in my moral rearview mirror for God to roll up behind me and give me a ticket. I had this perception that He was some sort of a moral police. Then I was transformed by grace. It wasn’t a ticket to do whatever I wanted, but it was the only ticket to freedom. Grace alone. There was nothing I could do to make myself innocent, only God’s grace. When my eyes were opened to the truth about God’s grace, my life was transformed. Suddenly, all you want to do is follow Christ, live upright in the eyes of the Lord.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:23-25

Like police cars patrol the places we live, the Holy Spirit lives within us. Like police, we should be happy they are around, patrolling, looking out. We should not fear the police. Similarly, the Holy Spirit lives within each believer. We should not fear the Spirit’s direction and guidance. We should be joyful at the Spirit’s presence. Should we stray the Spirit convicts. The truth is, when the Spirit convicts the sentence is “guilty as charged”. Amazing grace! For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, HIS kindness, leads us to repentance. Repentance is not earned, but a gift from God most high. Repentance overturns the sentence, INNOCENT and free to live upright by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. -jason

 

 

Too Soon AND Right on Time

Last year at our church’s annual Memorial Day picnic, I had the privilege of baptizing Irene alongside Pastor Tim. Members of the church gathered at the beach at Bellows and joyful shouted praises of joy when Irene reemerged from the waters. I met with Irene and her husband the month prior and she was very clear about her faith in Jesus. During that time Irene had a little concern about the baptism, she had severe back pain and had been resting it so she could be there.

Last month I took Irene to two doctors appointments. They were radiation appointments to treat the cancer that spread through her body, the cancer that we later learned was causing the severe pain in her back.

 

Last night we got a message, Irene had passed away.

 

Irene was a young doctor. She shared with me the dreams that she had for her practice. She truly just wanted to help people. In the times that I was able to spend with her, she was always pleasant, always warm, even when she was in constant pain. One thing I will remember was her faith. She trusted that the Lord could heal her body, and she also knew that if her time came, He could call her home. She had faith in God’s all-powerful healing hand, and also God’s all knowing sovereign will.

There is peace in knowing that Irene is with the Lord. We can rejoice in that. No more pain, no more suffering. Still, there is loss and grieving for her husband and two teenage children that she leaves behind. There is sadness and broken hearts for her church family that has been praying and visiting with her. For us, Irene has been taken too soon. There was so much more she could have done with the dreams of her medical practice. There were so many more memories to be made with her family. Her church family was looking forward to serving along side her in the work of the gospel ministry. Too soon.

Irene’s own faith reminds me, her death is right on time. It was a faith that knows the Lord sees the bigger picture. Sometimes tragedy and triumph coexist. Irene knew that that Jesus is victorious. Jesus defeated death. He lives. Through her faith, Irene too will defeat death because of Jesus’ victory in the resurrection. Because He lives, she will also. In the ultimate plan for creation, I don’t believe God caused Irene’s death, but I do believe that in His sovereign will, He allowed it and saw that it was time. Right on time.

It’s both, too soon and right on time. It doesn’t make sense and so we grieve. We must. We find peace and comfort through our grief in knowing that God is good and He loves Irene more than we could ever. We trust it was the right time and we seek Him for guidance through our grief.

Too soon and right on time has been something I am seeing all too much. There is a lot of suffering in the world. Stay near to the ones you love. Don’t wait till tomorrow. We must trust in the Lord’s divine understanding, His sovereign will and be prepared when that right time comes much too soon for us. -jason