Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seasonal Surprises

"There's a reason for the sun shiny sky
And there's a reason why I'm feelin' so high
Must be the season..."

Several years ago, I spent a few days in Colorado Springs, CO, on business. It was late Summer and i was enjoying the near-perfect weather in the high 70's. It was simply beautiful and I was having a great trip. The day before I was to fly back home, I played in a golf tournament wearing a hat and sunscreen -- appreciating the wonderful vistas of the majestic Rocky Mountains contrasting the clear blue skies above and the fertile green valley below me on an incredible God-painted canvas that i was privileged to personally witness. It was in a word, picture perfect.

I slept soundly that night, entranced in the sweet Summer aroma of nature. The sights, sounds and scents of that day lingered on my mind pleasantly to the next morning. Upon waking at the Holiday Inn that next morning, I opened the shades to discover a blanket of white had covered the ground as snow was falling from the sky!

The same sky that, a day earlier, had been blue, beautiful and bright, had suddenly turned dark and ominously threatening. Had the season changed? No, it was still late-Summer. Had my position changed? No, I was in the same place that I had been for three days. Had I changed? I wondered, so I pinched myself and let out an "ouch!" I was still the same. I wasn't dreaming.

In life, there are "seasonal surprises." Everything is beautiful, everything is going well, you are in the right place at the right time and all-of-a-sudden, wham! Suddenly, you find yourself in the middle of a storm.

When this happens -- and it will -- remember the season. Your season. Know this, the "surprise" will pass. It didn't come to last, it came to pass! So some snow fell on your Summertime. You'll be back in the sunshine again, and soon.

Don't allow the "surprises" to spoil your season. 
Don't let them throw you off your game or derail your faith.
Remind yourself that God is for you and God is in you. 
That means God is with you -- 
and God with you, supersedes any of life's surprises.

"I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished" - Philippians 1:6

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Above the Circumstances

Numbers 27:12; "the LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see..."

Yesterday, (Monday, the 23rd of April), was a dreary and drizzly day in the Los Angeles basin. It didn't really rain, but was just a gray and threatening day punctuated with intermittent sprinkles. Just one of THOSE days.

It was our day off, so Karlene and I headed up to our mountain home. After a stop at Starbucks to fuel up and warm up, we began our ascent up into the San Bernardino mountains. As we headed upward, the weather worsened and it became a much more difficult drive. The higher we climbed, the foggier it became, and coupled with the light rain, made it hard to see where we were going. We were forced to slow down and proceed with caution.

Oftentimes, life is like that. In our attempt to climb higher, the storms seem to worsen and the ascent becomes even more difficult. However, for those situations, let me offer one piece of advice -- KEEP GOING. Many times, the worst thing one can do is stop in the middle of the storm.

1) Stopping can get you stuck.
One of the new experiences that we have had, since frequenting the mountains, is driving in snow and ice. When driving in those conditions, you just have to go slow, but the key word is "go." It may be a little slippery, and you may not feel as in-control as you would like to, but the important thing is to keep moving. Stopping is the worst thing you can do when you hit a rough patch because if you stop, you'l get stuck. Keep moving slowly, but surely and you will get where you need to be.

2) Stopping can get you hurt.
One of the major reasons for accidents in the fog, is caused by people stopping on the road because they can't see the road good enough. Again, it's important to keep moving slowly and cautiously. Stopping on the road or the side of the road in the fog is extremely dangerous.

So yesterday, in the middle of the storm, fog and rain, we continued onward and upward toward our destination. No, we didn't stop -- even though we were in the midst of the storm. We didn't give-up simply because we couldn't see our way clearly enough. We didn't quit because the way was somewhat treacherous, but we continued on. On journey was slowed and more stressful than usual, but onward we went.

Then, once we reached an altitude of 5,300 feet above sea level, something wonderful happened. We drove right out of the storm and the fog and the rain and into the bright, beautiful sunshine! In a moment, our storm turned into blue skies. We could see clearly -- and for miles! The rain was behind us and beneath us. The change was immediate and amazing.

Don't allow your surroundings stop your ascent in life. Things may not be what you want them to be right now, but keep climbing. Like God told Moses in the opening verse, if you want to "see" -- get to the top of the mountain. I would encourage you to do like Moses did, keep moving onward and upward -- before you know it the circumstances and the scenery will change, and it will change for the better.

"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." (Galatians 6:9 NLT)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Happened to the Power?

The rhapsody was rapturous as LifeStyle Praise Band belted-out one of my very favorite songs, (Glorious Day by Casting Crowns), during one of the largest Celebration Services of the year, on Easter Sunday no less, at Cornerstone. The congregation was moved, as the powerful song built to a worshipful crescendo when the unthinkable (and unplanned-for) happened, the power went out. A myriad of questions and thoughts went through my mind in a manner of seconds, such as, "A Powerless Resurrection Service?”, "Really, on Easter Sunday?", and "Why, Why, Why?!!"

Thankfully, the Worship Band didn't miss a beat, as they continued with the two acoustic guitars taking the lead and LifeStyle bravely kept singing without the benefit of the Sound System. Meanwhile, the tech, media and usher teams scrambled in a frantic fire drill trying desperately to find the culprit and get the power back on in short order. In a matter of minutes, the blown breaker was reset and order (and power) restored.

It was one of a Pastors' worst nightmares -- a blown Breaker right in the middle of church. Not the worst -- I've seen worse and no, I won't divulge what they are (at least not today). Suffice it to say, it was bad enough and to top it off it was on EASTER SUNDAY! I mean, c'mon, Easter Sunday?! Easter is the big church day of the year. The day that you are trying to reach the crowd of CEO's, (Christmas Easter Only) in the audience. It's the day you want to make an impression on the guests -- a favorable impression, that is. It's the day you want everything to be perfect.

Life's like that.

Everything seems to be going great -- you're in the middle of your moment, the celebration is on, and then, out of left field, something happens. You get unplugged. Something or someone blows your breaker. Next thing you know, you’re disconnected.

Your reaction and subsequent actions in those moments of life will determine your success or failure – moving forward or backward.

So what are you to do in those moments of life?

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Re-Connect Quickly.
When you experience a blow-out on the road of life that drains you and threatens to get you off-course, as quickly as you can, go to the Power Source and reconnect. The Bible encourages Christians to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Jesus is the Christian’s source of power and strength. Disconnecting from Him is the worst thing that can happen to you.

2) Find the Culprit and Eradicate it.
Whatever is “blowing your breaker” needs to be removed or changed in your life. If not, it will continue to happen, over and over again. You can’t just reconnect and expect everything to be fine – you must deal with the issue that keeps zapping and sapping you.

3) Add a Surge Protector to the Line.
Get some good and Godly people in your life that can help you keep the power flowing, in spite of life’s ups and downs. Proverbs 11:14 says “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Good advice for all of us.

So, one of my worst nightmares on Easter Sunday turned into a great illustration for my Easter sermon, “Follow.” The end result was positive with several people choosing to follow Jesus and many more reconnecting with Him. What could have been a curse, instead became a blessing.

When life deals you lemons, you can get sour or you can make lemonade.

Easter Sunday at Cornerstone ended up being as your “outage” can…
powerfully refreshing.