I Thank My God

Phil 1:3The pastoral team at SeaCoast Grace Church did this piece over three years ago as a part of our weekend worship service. It was our way of saying thanks to those who were making an eternal difference through the ministries of the church. Seeing it brought back special memories with this incredibly talented team. While most of us have now moved on, I thank God for the time we shared together…

 

Best Commercials of Super Bowl XLVII

NFL_SB47_Primary_National_Feb_Year_RGBSince last year’s Super Bowl commercials were a little anti-climatic for me, I purposed this year not to watch any commercials in advance of the game. And that made a world of difference in my overall SuperBowl experience!  However, in hosting a Super Bowl party this year, I didn’t catch every commercial, and I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed with many of the commercials I saw in the first half of the game. But in the second half, the commercials came alive or maybe it’s the fact that the 49ers finally came alive, that changed my interest in the game and the commercials.

What was interesting to watch this year, was a lot of advertisers decided to tug on our heart-strings with ads that celebrated the America’s patriotic spirit and the people who make this nation great. Personally, I was encouraged by this sense of pride and patriotism that I saw reflected in these ads. However, on the flip side, I was disgusted by advertisers like GoDaddy and Carl’s Jr, who continue to demean men and women as sex objects in their ads. Yet overall, I was happy with the sense of family values reflected in this year’s line up.

So in review of this year’s Super Bowl ads, here are my picks for the best of Super Bowl XLVII:

Best Overall: Dodge Ram Commercial

Funniest: Tide Commercial

Most Entertaining: Pistachio Commercial

A 6 X 6 Plan

imagesAs a leader, what do you struggle with everyday? For most of us, our answer would be time! However, at the 2012 Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels challenged leaders to consider that its really our work habits that leaders struggle with on a day to day basis.

Watch as Bill Hybels talks about an exercise that helps his daily work habits. We can’t sprint for 6 months, but we can for 6 weeks. What would your 6×6’s be?

Our Owner’s Manual

Honda-Accord-2012-02Yesterday, I planned to take my 2012 Honda in for its first service. The dealer we had bought the car from in So Cal, had called to remind us that it was time for its three-month service. So I figured, I was well overdue and needed to get in to a dealer right away.

When I called AutoWest Honda in Roseville to schedule my three-month service, they informed me that they didn’t do a three a month service on a 2012 Honda Accord. “What do you mean,” I asked. “I received a call from our old dealer reminding me I needed to get in. And I already have 5,000 miles on my car. Surely, I at least need an oil change?” The man on the other phone proceeded to tell me about the monitoring features of the newer Honda’s and that unless I had a “red wrench” warning light on in my car, that it wasn’t due for a service. Confused and a little dumfounded, I asked, “Well how long do I go on before getting my car serviced?” And he went on to say, “Well that depends on how often and how far you drive your car! It could be a whole year before the service light goes on.” “You’ve got to be kidding me!,” I said and thanked the man for his time.

Since my SoCal dealer was so nice to give me a year’s worth of free oil changes, I thought surely the AutoWest dealer’s service department didn’t know what they’re doing. And in my doubt, I called the SoCal dealer’s service desk and got quite the opposite reaction. When I spoke with them, I got a scolding for waiting so long to bring my car in for service. “Sir,” the man said, “you should have brought your car in over 1,000 miles ago.” No mention of the warning light, no mention of the new monitoring system. So I asked him, “Well who am I to trust? I am getting two different opinions from two different Honda dealers!” He didn’t have an answer for me, so I thanked him for his time and hung up the phone.

To tip the scales, I decided I would call a third dealer! However, as I prepared to call another, my wife suggested I open up the glove box of my car and read this little booklet known as an “Owner’s Manual” and see what it might have to say! Brilliant, I surmised and I immediately went to the garage to get the manual. Sure enough, the service people at AutoWest Honda were right! They were following the manufacturer’s suggested service plan. The SoCal dealer, not so much!

As I considered my experience that day, I thought, how often it is in life that we are quick to seek man’s opinions when trying to make significant decisions that can have significant impact on our lives. For me, I was ready to call and ask for another man’s opinion about the maintenance of my car, while the Owner’s Manual, written by the manufacturer of the car, sat in the glove box. As Christians, aren’t we a lot like that? We’re quick to seek out the thoughts and opinions of our friends and family, when it comes to decision points in our lives, instead of pursuing what God has to say. Like me in this car service scenario, the manufacturers’ manual was readily available, but I was still looking to man’s opinions. Likewise, as Christian’s we forget that God has given us His Word, in order for us to live productively in this life! And like my Owner’s Manual’s, for many of us, God’s Word sits on a shelf collecting dust.

Well I don’t know about you, but next time I’m reading the Owners Manual! That’s God’s Word to us, written by the one who knows us best!

Top Posts of 2012

Best of 2012Hard to believe that it’s almost been a full year since I posted my first entry on this blog! So in following the mainstream media, I thought it would be fun to do a recap of the top posts of 2012. These are based on the number of hits as calculated by Google Analytics. Each post’s title is hyper-linked to the actual post if you want to check it out…

1. People Grow Better in Grace – Not sure what it’s been about this post, but I’ve had 4,731 hits on this article since I published it! Referred by search engines, I often get a few hits a day. Such a simple subject, but it’s not so easy to understand the concept of grace in today’s world. The goal of this post was to help others understand that because of God’s grace, one can enjoy favor with God, not because of what they have done, but because of what God has done.

2. A New Adventure – I sat on this big announcement for 10 days before going public with the news of our move back to Northern California! However, even with this very public announcement, which was shared in church, and through social media like Facebook and Twitter, people are still just hearing the news of our move back to Sacramento.

3. Do Not Be Afraid – We’re reminded in Scripture 365 times to fear not! That’s one exhortation a day for an entire year.  It seems that God knew we needed to be reminded to have faith, for by nature, we’re fearful people. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown consume us and prevent us from living lives of freedom in Christ. This very simple entry reminds us all, that God is with us!

4. Celebrating 19 Years of Marriage – I wrote this post as a way of recalling the wonderful moments of 19 years of marriage to my wife Jennifer! Even one of my missionary friends paid me a complement, by copying the idea in a prayer letter to his supporters, in celebration of he and his wife’s 19th wedding anniversary.

5. Bible Apps – Nothing really profound here. Just a recap of some of the free resources for on the go Bible reading.

So there you go! The top 5, which broken down can be summarized by three posts about spiritual matters, and two entries of a personal nature. And here’s the funny thing! I don’t think any of these entries would necessarily be in my personal Top 5 list. In fact, some of my favorites, are the least read articles. Oh well! No matter what the stats say, blogging this past year, has been therapeutic for me and for that I am grateful!

:: Love Came Down at Christmastime

At Christmas, we can experience every kind of emotion there is: anger at a disgruntled family member, stress finishing up last-minute shopping, exhaustion after wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve…but when all is said and done, Christmas is about love. And don’t just take my word for it. The nineteenth-century poet Christina Rossetti famously captured the spirit of Christmas when she wrote:

        Love came down at Christmas,
        Love all lovely, love divine;
        Love was born at Christmas,
        Star and angels gave the sign.

And the beloved disciple John wrote in 1 John 4:9:

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.

Christmas is not only a demonstration of God’s love, but an expression of God’s character, for God is love (1 John 4:8). The ultimate expression of God’s love was sending Jesus into the world, which is what we celebrate at Christmas, Immanuel – God with us!

God’s ways are always motivated as an expression of his love and as we experience more of his love, we in turn learn how to love others. In fact, our love for others is evidence that God lives in us. When we allow God’s love to shine in our lives, people can see the unseen God at work and that brings him glory, honor and praise.

Christmas wasn’t just a cute little baby being born in a manger on a silent night in a little town of Bethlehem! Christmas reminds us of the Son of God, who for the love of you and me left his Father’s side to make a way for us to know and experience relationship with him. Christmas is a love story.

This Christmas, may you more fully experience God’s unconditional love, so that you may more fully love others as he has loved us!

A Christmas Prayer

From the desk of Max Lucado…

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,

Your Children

Remembering the victims and praying for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary in NewTown, CT as well as for our nation!

Christmas Traditions

In the Old Testament, the Isrealites remembered God’s provision and faithfulness through feasts and celebrations. Several times a year, they’d stop what they were doing and celebrate how God brought them out of slavery, or how God protected them from their enemies. Additionally, several times throughout the Old Testament, men of faith would also set up memorial stones to remind all who passed by of God’s great provision.

In Genesis 35:14, Jacob set up a pillar, a type of memorial, in the place where God had spoken and revealed Himself. In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel took a stone and set it up saying, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Every time the Israelites went by them, they would remember what God had done. How He had brought them out of bondage, healed their children, and supernaturally provided for their needs. Having those memorial stones helped it to stay fresh in their memory.

Over the years, our family has carried out a tradition of giving Christmas ornaments to one another. Our tree is laden with ornaments going back to my childhood. And Jennifer and I adopted this family tradition over 20 years ago when we first got married and have for over 20 years accumulated ornaments, that like the Israelites, bring back  special memories. As we were decorating the tree tonight, I was flooded with memories of years gone by. There was the “Our First Christmas” ornament, with a picture of a much younger Bryan and Jen (and as Zach jokes, with hair). We have ornaments that were given by missionary friends from Russia & China. And there are many that memorialize the 2010 SF Giants World Series victory!

However, several years ago, due to the increasing population of ornaments on our tree, Jen & I decided that we would only buy one ornament for each other. That ornament usually derives from our vacation destination, or signifies a significant memory from the year. We haven’t yet purchased this year’s ornament, since we really didn’t have a vacation this summer because of Zach’s broken leg, so we were laughing tonight about getting a moving truck ornament, or finding an ornament with a boy who’s in a cast. Whatever we find, it will remind of us some special memory we shared together as a family.

It was also fun to see Zach really appreciate the tradition we share this evening. He proudly hung most of his ornaments on the front of the tree. He talked about each one and together we remembered our time together with our dog Maggie. We talked about how we miss her and what a great dog she was. We talked about the fun we had in Hawaii during our sabbatical and about how we need to go back this next summer. We looked at ornaments he made in elementary school! It was a grand time and in about 10-12 years, many of the ornaments will likely move out when Zach charters his own course in life. We keep his ornaments boxed separately, so he can carry the tradition on, when he starts his own family. And we look forward to a day that we’ll be able to recall those special memories with his family.

Yes, celebrations and memorial markers help us to recall and remember God’s goodness in the land of the living. And I am grateful for the traditions that my mom started and that we now continue on, for they truly remind me of how full and blessed my life really is!

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