Monday, April 29, 2013


"When you place your hope in Jesus, you can't help but live differently"
  -Matt Galacia, April 28th, 2013

Meditate on the above statement which Matt shared in his sermon this past Sunday.  These are powerful words for turbulent times.  I want to encourage you to take this statement to heart and personalize it because the lost in America are longing to find real hope.  We live in a country which is pessimistic and hopeless.  Hope has become nothing more than a political statement with no vibrancy or power.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffer from some level of depression (  Anxiety disorders cost the United States more than $4.2 billion annually, which is almost 1/3 the total mental health bill in the country (  Over 11% of the United States population (34 million Americans) were taking antidepressants in 2011 (   This doesn't even include the number of Americans who have turned to other substances (Like alcohol, marijuana, speed, cocaine, etc) to numb their pain so they can face their daily lives.  We live in a culture which appears hopeless and clueless to do anything about that condition except medicate the symptoms.

I listed those statistics above to let you know how many Americans have no hope.  Even in the church, we have turned to doctors and medication to treat the symptoms rather than the problem.  The problem of hopelessness is one of faith.  It really is.  The object of our faith determines whether we will have hope or not.  If the object of our faith is fallible (Like trusting in ourselves, the government, our money, a spouse/friend/parents, etc.) then our hope will ebb and flow with circumstances.  However, when we place the hope of our future into the nail-scared hands of our Savior, we are trusting the One who is totally trustworthy.  We don't have to construct an elaborate theology when we trust Jesus.  We show we trust Jesus by following His commands and directions for our lives.  Too many in the church want to "tweak" God's Word to meet their living condition rather than changing their living condition to meet the standards of the Bible.  It's kind of a backwards way of following Jesus, which simply exasperates our hope and patience.  We put our hope in Jesus by seeking His direction, following that direction and trusting the future into His hands.  The hope of tomorrow is based on the "God" we serve today.

If our hope really is in Jesus, we will live differently than those around us.  Often, this calls us to make what appears to be a sacrifice.  Everyone else may already be at peace with compromise and expect us to just go along with them.  But because our hope is in Jesus, we just have a different set of priorities.  Just think about Sunday mornings:  If our hope is in Jesus, we look forward to being in church, corporate worship and the accountability/encouragement from our church family.  It's not a discussion point for us.  We will just be in church each Sunday morning.  Our family members who want to have a family party know that they must wait until after church before we will arrive.  Our neighbors know that a block party won't happen until after church.  Our bosses know they can't schedule us for work on that day.  There will be times when this seems like a huge sacrifice and we will be tempted to compromise.  But since our hope is in Christ, we just have a different set of values and priorities.  We shouldn't expect others who don't have this hope to understand and support our decisions.  Sunday morning is just one example of how our hope in Christ causes us to live differently.  We study harder, work harder on the job, love our spouse/children deeper than we did before we came to Christ.

Those around us are looking for authentic hope.  They know they won't find it in "Christians" who live like them, cuss like them, drink like them but throw a little Jesus on life.  Others around us are slowly being sucked into a pit of hopelessness.  We can be salt and light, just like Jesus told us to be...IF...we will put our hope in Jesus.  Once we do this, the living takes care of itself.  So, who is your "God"?  In whom or what are you putting your hope?  May this Sip from the well refresh your soul to trust Jesus afresh and anew today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

You Gotta be on your toes

My eight year old son has developed a passion for baseball.  He enjoys playing it, watching it, talking about it and learning about it.  If you sit down and talk with him about the history of baseball, he can discuss many of the greatest players of the game.  He plays games on Thursdays and Saturdays and has practice on Wednesday.  I enjoy being one of his assistant coaches and have gained an even deeper appreciate for baseball.  At one time, baseball was known as the "American Pastime", but we the kinetic pace of life, most Americans can't sit still long enough to last through a baseball game.  Baseball is a game that combines skill with preparation.  You have to be thinking constantly to be an effective player because one lapse of concentration can cost you the game.  While in the field, a player must always be ready even if a ball is never hit in his direction the entire game.  He must be aware of the runners on base, the amount of outs, the pitch count and so much more.  If he is on his toes, when the ball comes his way, he is able to make the right play at the right time.  Very few Americans have the patience and ability to appreciate the wonderful pace of baseball.  Baseball has become my favorite game for this very reason.  It doesn't hurt to have two major league teams within a thirty minute drive of my home, either.  Thaddeus and I will love to go to the ball park as soon as it opens to watching batting practice, try to catch foul balls, watch our favorite players warm up and soak in the beauty of the game.  We will probably even go this Friday evening to watch my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles play the Oakland A's. 

It's too bad that we live in such an immediate culture.  We can access the internet on our phones, we can microwave our food in just a few seconds and a multitude of other tasks which come easily with the press of a button.  We want what we want...and we want it now.  If we have to wait too long, we just move on to something else.  The technology has increased the speed of our lives and the amount of free/down time has actually diminished.  This is one of the great paradoxes of our culture:  We have all of these time-saving devices, yet we have less free time than ever.  Our entire culture is attention-deficit.  We bounce from one fad to another, one bedroom to another, one website to another, one church to another, one sever to another, etc.  Baseball is no longer as popular because Americans need instant gratification and entertainment.

Unfortunately, the Church is suffering from this same disorder.  We have lost the ability to be still and know that God is God.  We spend so much time trying to determine the latest "movement" in pop culture and stay "relevant" that we have lost purpose and peace.  We are trying to mold the Church into something that will be attractive to our culture, but it's like juggling jello.  Our culture keeps shifting and "evolving" that there is no way we can keep up with the latest trend.  Bottom line:  The Church has become too worldly.  We are trying to hard to fit in, so when God really moves, we don't recognize it.  We are too busy trying to figure out if we "feel" close to God or if we "sense" Him touching our lives.  We are too self-centered in our faith and not Christ-centered in our faith.  We are like the baseball player who begins to focus on the fans in the stands rather than on the play in the field.  His mind has wandered and so when it is time for him to make a play, he is not prepared.

Jesus warned us in Matthew 25:13 to "Keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour."  He was speaking of His return after He had just told the parable of the ten virgins.  I don't want to be like to the foolish virgins who had no oil because they weren't prepared.  They had to run off and buy some more because the bridegroom came later than they expected.  I don't want to waste my time on the things that don't matter and miss opportunities to share Christ.  I don't want to get sucked into trying to become culturally relevant while I compromise the truths of Scripture.  If the Church is obeying and honoring Christ, the world will be attracted to Jesus not the Church.  Jesus told us that if He were lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Our goal isn't to make our church attractive.  Our goal is not even to make Jesus attractive.  Our goal is to lift Jesus up.  It is to honor Him in the way we live our we conduct we study in we honor Biblical we treat our we treat our kids/parents...etc.  To do this, we have got to be on our toes.  We must have our mind of the things of Christ and that which truly matters to Him.  Great theology is no substitute for humble service.  God doesn't utilize the best equipped, He utilizes those who are ready.  Are you on your toes and looking for the opportunity to honor Christ in each moment?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ruminations from a "Zero TV" Home

I vividly remember when it happened:  Leah and I had been married less than a year.  The year was 1995 and it was in April as we were sitting on the sofa watching "Wings" on the television.  I turned to Leah and told her that when we had children, we would need to be more selective in what shows we watched.  Her response stopped me in my shoes:  "Then why are WE watching those shows?"  Ouch.  She was right, but it still hurt.  Being a bachelor until I was 33, I had to have cable to watch the NBA, WWF wrestling, MLB, college basketball and football, etc.  I justified watching TV by trying to convince myself there was nothing wrong with the sports I watched on TV.  But Leah's words drove straight to my heart, mind and soul.  If my kids shouldn't watch it, why was I watching it.

So we made a decision to cut cable.  In Kamuela that meant no TV at all, which was a huge step for me.  I thought I would miss my sports and favorite shows, but that didn't really happen.  We had allowed TV to have a three-fold impact on our lives:  (1) It became a noise producer - When we came home from work, the TV was turned on.  Even if we weren't watching it, the TV was on.  It made our home cluttered with noise, which cut down on our communication and interaction.  (2)  It became a time stealer - countless evenings I had spent flipping from one show to another, not with any purpose.  Before I knew it, two hours were gone.  I wasted time watching things that were pointless.  (3)  It became a pimp of worldly values and culture  - The shows rarely reinforced anything which Jesus told me to value.  Not only that, but the commercials constantly pushed me towards culturally acceptable practices, norms and values which have little Biblical relevance.  The beer commercials told me I needed a beer to really have a good time.  Probably half of the commercials had a scantily clad woman telling/showing me what I really needed.  Those three issues made the decision to cut cable an easy decision - Not to mention we would no longer be spending the overpriced $35 per month for cable.  Here in lies the irony:  I had been  paying a lot of money to downgrade my life.

Why do I bring this up now?  I read an article last week which gave a name to nuts like me who no longer have TV in their homes:  Zero TV homes.  Here is the article which is worth a look:  It doesn't promote giving up TV, but actually mentions how broadcasters are hoping to lure us Zero TV crazies back into watching TV.  Good luck with that.  I do need to make a full confession:  We do have a television set in our home and have had one ever since we cut cable.  We even have Netflicks when we want to watch a show or movie.  We even have TV shows we like on DVDs and movies on DVDs.  However, for us to watch anything, we must make a choice and decide to watch something.  The TV is never on unless a decision has been made for a specific show or movie to be watched.  We also are commercial free, which means the pimp is not allowed in the house.  We enjoy watching our favorite TV shows like "The Andy Griffith Show", "The Cosby Show", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "I Love Lucy" and a few more.  This Zero TV household gets to choose and control the noise, time and values we allow into our home.

When we first cut cable, I didn't think I would make it.  I am a sports-aholic, so I went into withdrawals.  But now, I find that I would rather play, coach and watch sports in person than on TV.  I actually watched the SuperBowl this year for the first time in over a dozen years because the 49ers were in it.  Our church made a fellowship event out of it with a video Gospel presentation at halftime.  However, when the commercials came on, I found myself getting very uncomfortable with the pimp hard at work around me.  I found myself getting up to get something to eat or check on kids at commercial time.  Watching the SuperBowl made me even more appreciative of the decision we made to be a Zero TV family.  I find that my mind is not nearly as cluttered as before.  I have more time to accomplish tasks that I really want to accomplish or have more time to spend with my wife and kids.  We aren't just vegging in front of the TV for hours as a time looking for something good on TV.  I also don't mind saving that money each month.  I heard that some people pay as much as $100 for their Dish network or cable.  For seventeen years, this Zero TV guy hasn't had a cable or satellite bill to pay which has given my bank account some rest.  Looking back, I really can't justify any reason for getting TV again. 

I know, some of you are reading this and thinking, "You don't HAVE to turn on your TV".  "You can be just as disciplined if you have cable or the Dish."  I have heard that reasoning from so many well-meaning friends who just can't understand why anyone would go without TV.  When we first cut our cable, some people thought we had lost our minds.  You should see some of the looks I get from people when I tell them we don't have TV or cable in our home.  We had a salesman in Best Buy try to sell us the Dish Network and he had absolutely no response to my telling him that we didn't watch TV.  He looked at us like we were from another planet.  I guess the training he went to didn't prepare him to discuss the values of  the Dish with Zero TV families.  I have to admit, it's kind of fun to go against the flow and do something simple that many people consider radical.  It's also nice to not get caught up in all the latest fads and "stars" in our culture.  I've had friends who tried to become Zero TV families and couldn't do it.  So we are counter-culture radicals.

Take a challenge:  Cut off your cable or Dish or satellite for only six months.  It's just a short six month experiment.  See what happens in your household.  Take a shot at being a Zero TV household.  If you find that I'm wrong and life is much better with TV, then you have at least saved yourself six months of cable/satellite bills.  Who knows, the broadcasters may be so desperate to get you back that they give you a fantastic deal.  What have you got to lose?

I can't see myself NOT being a Zero TV person.  The broadcasters can try whatever they would like to lure me back, but it's not going to happen.  After surviving seventeen years with Zero TV, there is little enticement to opening my home to the noise, time-waste and pimp that is Broadcast/cable/satellite TV.  I John 2:15-17 just makes way too much sense for me to surrender my Zero TV status.  Check out that passage and evaluate your status and TV viewing habits.   Keep a log of how often your TV (TVs) is on and to what shows.  Keep a log of commercials and the focus on the commercials.  Then reread I John 2:15-17 and see if it make sense for you to continue with TV.  I invite you to join me as a counter-culture revolutionary who is investing his/her time in that which God values.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Bleak Outlook

This past week, some rather discouraging news was reported about the job status in America.  The participation rate of work-aged adults in America has dropped to 63.3%, the lowest since May of 1979.  Many who are looking for work have simply gotten discouraged and quit looking.  They are taking early retirement, trying to get disability, going back to school, living off unemployment benefits or utilizing other options.  The outlook is indeed bleak for those who are looking to find work which will pay a living wage.  I first saw this article on Yahoo news, but could not locate it today as I wrote the blog.  However, I did find the article on Fox News, so here is the link:

Many people are leery of Fox News, which is why I said it was also on Yahoo news.  My observation is not one of political blame, which many pundits will attempt.  My observation is one of pointing to the hopelessness which can often invade our lives.  Many Americans are hopeless and have grown weary of being out of work or being overqualified that they simply quit looking.  This has affected people of all races, socio-economic levels and ages.  We live in a culture today which appears devoid of hope, best exemplified by the economic status of most people.  Those retirees who live on fixed incomes are finding out that their income will have less purchasing power in the future, which can be very disheartening with no other means of raising income.  Whether speak with college students who face a very uncertain employment career or seniors who face a very uncertain financial future, there is one common denominator:  Hopelessness.  Those who work on being overburdened by high taxes and a salary that is able to buy less and less.  Hopelessness.  It permeates so much of our society.  People become so hopeless that they are not only willing to take their own life, but the lives of others.  There is a blatant disregard for the value of life in our culture.  All of this reflects a lack of hope and purpose.  The news certainly paints a bleak outlook for the future of America.

Contrast that with what happened this past weekend when Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church, lost his son to suicide.  Dealing with this loss would seem to be overwhelming and I pray that I never have to face this situation.  However, Rick Warren has faced this situation with the knowledge of where his son is spending eternity and the support of a loving church family.  If you would like to read more, you can go to:   Many pastors want to be like Rick Warren and build a huge church.  However, God specifically chose Warren because of his humble desire to serve the Lord.  He is often under the microscope and criticized by folks from every spectrum of the theological and political world.  Yet, it this moment of grief, he is modeling for our country true hope.  A hope that comes only from faith in Jesus Christ.  A hope that faces an uncertain future with a certain God.

What circumstances are you facing in your life?  Are you experiencing hopelessness or faith?  Jeremiah 29:10-12 says, "This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."  Whatever lies ahead, we have hope because of the power of God.  Even Job, in the midst of his intesne suffering declared, "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him."  God reminds us in Romans 8:28 that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  This is not some flippant banner we paste of Facebook.  This is a promise from God Almighty to those who have given their lives to Christ.  Please remember that your circumstances are never hopeless when Christ is involved.  So approach the future with expectation not dread, with faith not fear and with hope not discouragement. May this Sip refresh you to face the struggles of life with a renewed spirit.