Monday, November 26, 2012


Today is something that is called "Cyber Monday".  The term made it's debut in 2008 as merchants tried to attract customers to buy on-line the Monday after Thanksgiving.  It has now become the busiest day for on-line purchases with the total being over $1.2 billion.  That's a lot of money being spent on one day.  One of the greatest dangers to this trend is the use of credit cards.  To purchase items on-line, the user must have a credit card for these purchases.  Even a cursory look at American spending habits shows that we have a serious credit card problem in this country.  The average American household owes over $8,500 in credit card debt.  This debt can't be paid off at the end of the month, which means the huge APRs affect finances.  65% of all Americans have so much credit that they only make the minimum payment every month.  This means we are squandering money by spending huge amounts of it on interest.  

Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave to the lender".  A while back, we heard about the 1% and how much wealth they have.  The media has treated the rich as evil, when really, the poor have made them wealthy.  Every time we pay interest on a credit card, we just helped make the rich richer.  Many Americans are upset over the wealth of the 1%, but those same folks who are upset are making it possible for the rich to be rich.  Credit card debt is the easiest way to make sure the 1% have more money.  If we really want equity, we should stop using credit cards unless we can pay off the balance at the end of each month.  As long as we owe, we become a slave to the one we owe.  We have limited God's movement in our lives because we have no freedom.  We can't tithe because we are stretched so thin financially with all of our bills and debt.  We aren't able to go on mission trips because we can't afford time off from work.  Or we just chuck it all and walk away from our debts by claiming bankruptcy.  None of these options are pleasing to God.

Why do we have debt?  We want things we can't afford.  We want things for our children we can't afford.  Instead of driving a used car, we have to have a new car.  We have to have the latest phone.  We have to have to newest computer.  We have to have the latest sneakers.  The list goes on and on.  The bottom line:  We aren't satisfied with what God has already given us.  Rather than be grateful for what we already have, we buy more things to go into an already-packed full closet.  We look at how much our monthly payment will be rather than praying and asking God if this is necessary.  Then we pass it on to the next generation as our children learn to go into debt watching us go into debt.  They think it is normal to have several maxed our credit cards, a house payment, a car payment, a student loan, etc.  

As followers of Christ, we need to end this madness in our lives.  The financial debt we have incurred need to be paid off and no new debt needs to be taken.  We need to honestly look at our lives and determine "need" versus "want".  December is a perfect time to look at this because advertisers are working overtime to make sure we know what we need and how easy it will be to get it.  Just whip out the Master Card and you can have it today.  This is a perfect time for us to teach our children the discipline of paying as you go.  Maybe we need to tell our children and grandchildren that we just can't afford more stuff.  Maybe there is more we can "do" this Christmas rather than "buy" this Christmas.

There is only one debt that is good:  The debt we owe to God for offering Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin.  This is a debt of love which allows us to live a life of worship.  This debt causes us to be thankful and generous because God has been so generous to us.  The advent of Jesus is the ultimate debt payment:  Jesus paid the debt for our sin that we couldn't afford.  Sin will cost us our souls, but Jesus redeemed that debt.  Have you trusted Jesus with your debt of sin?  It changes our entire outlook on life.

So don't let Cyber Monday rule your day.  Let the love of God, which dwells in your richly, rule your life and advent!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Broken Promise?

Psalm 33:12  "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance."

On August 5, 1620, two ships set sail from Southampton, England headed to the New World.  However, the Speedwell was found to be leaking and both ships returned to Dartmouth, England for repairs.  They set out again after repairs, but once again, the Speedwell was taking on water.  They returned once again to Plymouth where 102 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower for the trip to the New World.  They left on September 6th and arrived at Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.  They had missed their destination of the Virginia Colony and so they authored and signed the Mayflower Compact as their charter.  This document would serve as a model for other American documents, like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The wording of the Mayflower Compact begins, "In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.  Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620." (This version has modern language to help us better understand the document).

There had been two other attempts to establish a colony in the New World:  (1)  Roanoke Island, North Carolina on August 17, 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh.  On August 15, 1890 a resupply ship arrived to find the entire colony gone without a trace.  No one knows what happened to the "Lost Colony".  (2)  The first permanent settlement in the New World was at Jamestown, Virginia on May 14, 1607 with the purpose being to establish wealth, trade and commerce.  From the beginning, this settlement had overwhelming problems and struggles.   Yet they established the first permanent settlement in North America.

Why, then, do we celebrate and know more about the rag tag Pilgrims than we do about the strongly financed and armed Jamestown settlement? I believe it is because the purpose of the Pilgrims:  They came to worship God and serve Him in this new land.  If you read the history of the two settlements, there is a marked contrast in the growth and attitude within these two.  The faith of the Pilgrims led them to follow the Bible, which helped them as they wrote their Mayflower Compact - A promise made to God.  America began with a prominent faith in God, which wee have often heard about in our founding fathers.  Though secular historians enjoy trying to rewrite the history to change the faith of these founders, their words speak of their deep faith.  They saw America as a nation which would honor God and have His blessings as they became a light of morality and faith in the world.  They knew the promise which America made with God.  Truly, a unique nation among the world.

So what is the significance of this?  I give this introduction of our history as a reminder of the promise we have had with God as a country.  Today, America has chosen to ignore this legacy of faith and turns towards immorality and human solutions rather than faith in Christ.  We have begun to trust ourselves, our politicians, our power and our finances more than we trust in God.  Therefore, we have become a nation under God's judgment.  Our immorality testifies against us and our misplaced trust becomes part of the judgment.

I looked through some of the times in the Old Testament when Israel was under God's judgment and found these qualities to be at work each time the nation was under God's judgment:
1.  The country refused to acknowledge they were under God's judgment
2.  They justified their sins and sought to normalize immoral behavior
3.  They sought human solutions to the problems brought on by judgment - Which only led to further judgment
4.  They sought to marginalize those who would call them to return to God.
5.  They sought to popularize worship of God by incorporating pagans gods and rituals into the worship of God or as other options to God

Would any of this apply to American today?  In such a short blog, it's impossible to go into great detail, but look at each one of these for yourself and you will find America involved in all five.  My quick take:
1.  When was the last time an American political leader or religious leader told us that our problems weren't financial, but were spiritual?
2.  The sin of divorce, cohabitation and homosexuality have all become mainstreamed and lost any negative stigma.  As a matter of fact, there are churches which give leadership to those in these life settings with no regard to Biblical admonitions.  We have an accepted level of vulgarity, violence, thuggery and indignity that is stunning and thorough.
3.  Each solution our politicians give us (Government take-over of Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac, two stimulus packages, government take-over of health care) have all made our situation worse, not better.  We continue to look for human solutions rather than repenting and turning to God.
4.  Anyone who calls for morality and repentance receives a label and is pushed to the fringe edges as an extremist.  If you have read this far in this blog, you have already had thoughts that Ted is a little off.  You didn't know I was such a far right, Bible thumping nut job.
5.  There is a church for any proclivity you may have.  Our churches try to compete with Hollywood by being just as entertaining with music, technology, hip looking preachers, self-help messages and a dose of cultural relevance.

If you think America is under God's judgment, there is only one solution and it is found in II Chronicles 7:14.  God is speaking to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple and letting Solomon know what Israel must do if she finds herself under judgment because they have abandoned God.  "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked days, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  Notice, this call of repentance is not to the lost, but to the saved.  The Church must stop pointing a finger at the world, and point her finger at herself.  The Church needs to repent and turn.  God's acts of judgment are to serve as a wake up call, not to destroy us.  But if we won't respond, the downfall of America is imminent.

Every night before I go to sleep, I make sure my two sons are tucked in and sleeping safely.  I look down on their angelic faces deep in sleep and pray for them.  Many are the nights when I place my hand on them and pray for them.  there are nights when I weep for these young ones because I fear for the America which will be handed over to them, a country under God's judgment.  I pray that they will be strong warriors for Christ to endure what lies ahead.  Maybe I am a pessimist because I don't see America turning back to God, but continuing to seek her own solutions.  My hope for my sons is that America will see she has broken a promise made by those who came 400 years ago and turn back to our loving Heavenly Father.  Because "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance."

Monday, November 5, 2012

What a Surprise!!

Tomorrow, our country will go to the polls to vote for a president, other officials and different ballot measures.  If you are like me, you are quite sick of all the campaign information.  I have grown weary of seeing the Facebook posts which usually run down one candidate or the other.  I have been embarrassed to see how angry family and friends are about one candidate or the other.  I cast my ballot several weeks ago, so it's been easy to tune out the election hoopla.  I know that Barack Obama cannot fix what ails our country.  I know Mitt Romney doesn't have the solution for the deep problems of our country.  I'm not looking to a politician to bring lasting change because they are the ones who got us in the bind to begin with.  My hope is found in Jesus, the salvation He offers and the abundant life He has given.  So I thought I would let me blog for this week be an escape for you if you have tired of this election cycle.

For the past few weeks, I knew that Leah had planned a trip for us.  She would not reveal the location, only to let me know that we were taking a trip.  She found someone to preach for me and lead the music for her.  She asked family and friends to watch our two sons and found a kennel for our dog.  It would be just the two of us from Friday morning until Monday evening.  She led me to believe that we would be going to Denver, Colorado.  Great location for us since we have several wonderful friends who live in Denver.  One of those is Evan Dalrymple, who was the best man at my wedding and who sings the national anthem before Denver Broncos' home games.  I checked the schedule and the Broncos were at home, so I figured we would be going to a game with Evan.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend away from the kids and work.  Oh, but my wife is tricky.  Many of you are under the false impression that I am the trouble-maker in the family.  You need to know that Leah is really the one you need to watch and keep an eye on. She fooled me.

The day before we leave, it is time to pack, so she tells me our destination...the Big Island of Hawaii.  Of all the locations on earth, the Big Island is my favorite.  We lived there for ten years and it still has the unspoiled beauty of old Hawaii along with some of the friendliest people I have ever met.  We didn't tell anyone we were going, we just hopped on the plane and headed to Kona.  Our first clue to family and friends was the picture we took at the Kona airport and sent to our Facebook pages.  Before we could check Facebook several hours later, the messages were lighting up asking if we were on the Big Island.  It wasn't really a people trip, but a place trip.  After the busyness of adopting Caleb, along with lots of work at the church, we were looking forward to relaxing and enjoying God's beauty.   Before our first day was over, we had gone to two wonderful beaches and driven to Kamuela to eat at Yong's Kalbi.  

We soaked up as much of the beauty of the Big Island as possible.  Here are some of those places:
 A beautiful Big Island sunset with the moon glistening beside Mauna Kea
 Paddling a kayak in Puako
 The Ednie's wonderful beach house in Puako
Leah doing the "Scutaro" at Mauna Kea Beach
Hiking to Maumae Beach
 Hapuna Beach
Kiholo Beach
Rock graffiti on the side of the road which we made in honor of the Giants winning the World Series

We were definitely sad to leave our Big Island after such a relaxing and beautiful trip.

However, what made the trip more special was the wonderful friends we were able to see and with whom we reconnected.  The faces of those wonderful friends brought a joy to my life.  It reminded me of the hours we had spent together, serving the Lord and ministering to each other.  We had friends join us to eat.
We had friends open their homes to us.  We had friends who asked us to stop by and when we arrived, they weren't home (Not to mention any names, but Linda Tohara, this was the second time you did this to us)

We came back refreshed by a place which is very special to us.  We asked God to make the days long in a good way, and He answered that prayer.  We asked, each day, He would give us the opportunity to encourage someone...and He did.  We even got to experience a tsunami while we were there.  One of the churches even put me to work during the tsunami, so we still were involved in ministry.  I am grateful that God allowed us this opportunity to return to the Big Island.  This surprise from my wife was the best gift I have received in a long time and the memories of this trip will linger for years to come.  Whenever things get a little crazy, in my mind I will just drift back to Hapuna, Manua Kea Beach, Puako, Anaehoomalu Bay or Kiholo.  When the media and friends are all in a tizzie over the election, I will drift off in my mind to one of these places - Feel the sun shine, the gentle trade winds and the splash of the ocean.  I know, this isn't the most deep and spiritually profound blog, but I hope you enjoyed getting away from the noise and commotion of your life to relax in the sun drenched beauty of God's wonderful creation of the Big Island.  By the way, how about asking God to give you someone to encourage today and see what happens.  Sip in it, hang loose, relax and don't forget to tip your driver!