Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are You Happy Now?

I was driving down the road the other day and as I crossed over Crenshaw Blvd, I left the confines of the city of Torrance and entered into its smaller neighbor to the south, the city of Lomita. Lomita celebrated it’s centennial last year and has banners that advertise that fact on every light post on their main drag. Those same banners also assert that Lomita, CA is “the friendly city.”

I do not know if the city officials just came up with that slogan on their own or if there was some scientific factor that figured into their claim. Maybe a poll was taken here in the South Bay (I don’t recall seeing one) or perhaps some national publication bestowed that title upon them (again, missed that -- if it happened). However, whatever, whoever came up with it – they’re running with it!

Smile -- It's the Second Best thing you can do with your Lips!

I must admit, there seems to be a dearth of friendliness and happiness around us these days. We can talk all we want about our “friendly cities,” “happy cows,” and even the “happiest place on earth,” but I’m not buying it. If it is the desired goal, that’s one thing. However, if its’ someone’s perspective of reality – I’d say “get real!” All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to see unfriendly and unhappy people nearly everywhere.

I like the thought, however, as a goal and ideal.
In fact, I have been conducting my own little anthropological study. What I have been doing – when I consciously think about it – is smiling at people and noting the response that I get back from them. More often than not, I get a smile in return for the one that I give away.

My contention is that smiling needs to make a comeback. In fact, Christians should be leading the charge! Smiling is a much better advertisement for Christianity than the alternative. Which reminds me of a church that I ministered at when I was a young, single evangelist.

Be Careful what you Advertise.

It was well before the days of church marketing and yet this church had put together a slick PR campaign that really impressed me. Their theme was “Join the Happy People.” They had produced signs, banners, brochures and ads with smiling, happy people plastered all over them. I was anticipating great things when I arrived to speak. Much to my disappointment and dismay, the happy people that were advertised never showed up. Instead, the majority of the church people were unhappy and unfriendly.

So maybe you don’t live in the “friendly city” and maybe you don’t go to the “happiest place on earth,” but you can live life with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Rejoicing in the fact that Jesus is the Lord of your life.

Don’t join the happy people – BE the happy people!

“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” –Psalm 144:15

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Graduation Day

Two days, two graduations.

My daughter Tara graduated from Torrance High School on Wednesday evening and then my son Zachary graduated from middle school on Thursday evening. Back-to-back graduations. Back-to-back events. Back-to-back celebration’s which featured a lot of preparation, not to mention great Greek food from our friends at Daphne’s Cafe.

It only seemed like yesterday that they climbed up into my lap to hear a bedtime story. It only seemed like yesterday that we laughed and played together at the park. It only seemed like yesterday that we were sending them off to Kindergarten and that they were so very young. It only seemed like yesterday… Yesterday. Realization has set in that yesterday is gone.

So as we miss and reminisce about yesterday -- we celebrate a new day, a new page or a new chapter in the book of our lives. As family and a few friends joined with Karlene and I, we celebrated the individual accomplishments of our children. We laughed, took pictures, told stories and even shed a few tears. Gifts were given, presents opened and joy was evident. Basically, we did life -- together – as life was intended.

Tara’s graduation ceremony was beautiful. The processional was over 500 strong. Tara sang with the Torrance High Troubadours for one last time. The speeches were given. The diplomas were handed out. The acceptance of the graduates was officially pronounced, balloons were released, caps flew, and the overflow -- and overheated -- crowd at Zamperini Stadium joined the graduates in a loud and lengthy celebration.

The celebration is still continuing.

It’s the celebration of life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fighting for the Faith

From the Heart of a Pastor
Maybe it just simply is what it is. Or maybe it can be attributed to the day and time we live in. Maybe it's just "Roller Coaster Christianity" rearing its ugly head. Maybe it’s the price of gas. Maybe it's something completely different. Maybe it’s me. Maybe like Tiger Woods, I didn't bring my "A" game. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. If you have any thoughts on this subject (if you dare to read on, that is) please feel free to share them with me.

One week removed from one of the most powerful services of the year at Cornerstone, we had an unusually anemic “Liberty Sunday.” Perhaps, one reason is the insidious attacks of the enemy in the body of believers – a counterstrike response to the spiritual forward thrust of the church a week earlier. Whatever the hinderance, be it Lucifer or Laodicea, there was certainly a heavy amount of spiritual warfare taking place before, during and after the service.

In one of my son’s favorite video games, there is an instrument called the “Energy Drain,” which, when activated, drains the energy out of any vehicle in the area, stopping it cold in it’s tracks. Maybe the game designer is a Christian and has dealt with the "Energy Drainer" before. You see, one of the biggest battles that we face as a church is the challenge of building positive momentum in the face of apathetic, disconnected, and uncommitted attitudes that quite frankly “drain the energy” out of the life of the church.

A Sinister Struggle

Cornerstone has somehow become a church of thirds and not in a good way. Outside of the committed core believers, the faithful few, there is a wandering congregation that leaves me wondering. Sometimes they show up to church, sometimes they don't. It is as if there are three different congregations: A, B, and C church! The problem is that you never know who will show up. It is an unfortunate, but true, fact that if all “three churches” would show-up on the same Sunday, there would not be enough seats for them in our sanctuary.

It is quite obvious that faithful church attendance is not high on the list of priorities for some. If something comes up, if they want to sleep in, if they want to go to a party, if they want to go to the beach, if they want to just stay home -- no problem! Church simply gets bumped to the background. Jesus gets brushed aside (again) for something that must be way more important than spending family-time with Him. Distraction is a favorite tool for the enemy of our souls and we, my friends, are living in the age of distraction.

A Biblical Parallel

I preached a sermon several years ago entitled "Asleep During Revival." It centered round an event that happened to a Bible character named Eutychus as recorded in Acts 20:7-12. The great apostle Paul was preaching in Troas and continued late into the night. At midnight, the young man, Eutychus, fell asleep in the windowsill of the three-story building in which Paul was preaching and fell out of the building to his death.

In that message, I recall being amazed that someone could fall asleep during the ministry of Paul -- the greatest Evangelist of his time. Yet, today, as I look around right here at Cornerstone, I see those who are falling asleep physically and spiritually -- even during powerfully anointed services, in which the Holy Spirit is moving mightily! We are certainly living in the midnight hour. While people are still getting saved, others are falling asleep and dying spiritually.

Faith, Hope and the rest of the Story
The story of the young man named Eutychus ends well, however, not badly. Paul immediately went down into the street where the young man’s lifeless body lay and prayed for him. As the power of God worked through Paul, death had to flee and life incredibly returned to his body. He was resurrected, renewed, re-filled with life! It was a miraculous transformation.

The good news for us – individually and corporately -- is that God is still in the transformation business. He is still changing hearts, lives, individuals and even churches. He is still breathing life into the lifeless, hope into the hopeless, and help into the helpless. God has an incredible way of changing the story of our lives to have a better ending, a happier ending, a heavenly ending.

So, no, I'm not throwing-in-the-towel or waving any white flag -- I'm just doing what a Pastor is supposed to do; "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet"(see Isaiah 58:1). Even in spite of the palpable spiritual lull, “Liberty Offering” still raised over $15,000 in cash and pledges. That is down quite a bit for a Liberty Offering, but it is the first one that has been designated for a ministry other than in-house at Cornerstone. I believe as “Miracle Month” continues, we will see and hear of great things happening as the result of our believing, expecting, and seed-sowing faith! I still believe the best is yet to be!

I will continue to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Anybody want to join me?
Anybody? Anybody?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Do You Believe in Miracles?

June is designated "Miracle Month" at Cornerstone.

It was launched with a bang on Sunday, the 1st with the powerful ministry of Ruckins McKinley. He is a powerfully anointed minister with gifting in worship and the prophetic. I can certainly attest to the fact that he was "in the flow" of the Holy Spirit as he spoke into the lives of individuals and the entire body of believers at CCC. He spoke the word of life into our church and into our lives. There are those in the body of Christ that tend to misuse or even abuse the prophetic ministry -- we've seen that in times past even at Cornerstone -- which lends to many shying away from the prophetic. However, Ruckins operates smoothly and positively in the arena of prophetic ministry. At Cornerstone, Ruckins was right on target and the result was transformational!
We are believing God for the miraculous in our church and in our lives. People are petitioning God throughout the month with their "Miracle Memo's" -- believing for the extraordinary from an extraordinary God! Yes, miracles still happen. Yes, Jesus still does the incredible. He is still the Lord of all. Nothing is too big or too great for Him. Yes, He is the same today as He was yesterday -- as He will be tomorrow.

This coming Sunday is our annual Liberty Sunday. We are expecting a financial breakthrough during the once-a-year Liberty Offering so that we can build a kitchen at the Spirit & Life Children's Home in India. Nothing is too big for our God. He is able. He is willing. We must be faithful.

Our theme is "Believe-Expect-Receive!"
Believe in the God that believes in you.
Expect the miraculous to happen when you pray.
Receive from the Lord what you dare to believe for!

It's Miracle Month and God is still in a Miracle Mode!