Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

English: Times Square, New Year's Eve, Decembe...

It’s funny. For years and years people have welcomed the new year with hope and expectation. Parties have been set up all over the world, and eyes have been glued to televisions here in America as people have tuned in to watch that ball drop in New York. “Auld Lang Syne” has been sung in countless bars and public squares with strangers kissing each other, trading smiles and hugs.

Not so much this time around. Even though Times Square was filled to the brim, many are feeling fearful. For some reason, the ending of ancient Mayan calendars has stigmatized 2012 with doomsday stories all over the place, and probably based on the Mayans simply running out of ink or getting tired of writing! Just kidding, maybe there are more profound theories behind it, but seriously, I do think that there have been major changes in how people approach the coming of a new year. We don’t seem to celebrate as much as we worry about what the year will bring. So much around us has become challenging, just look at the economy, politics and all the strife going on in the world.

There’s great news: With God, the new year is filled with excitement, hope and joy! See, with Him, life is no longer defined and controlled by circumstances or actions of others or results. It is defined by the relationship with the one who made us and loves us! His plans for us are good, and He has promised to use even the most difficult circumstances for our good. If we are able to grasp this, the new year can become incredible! I pray that you’ll find your way closer to Him, He’s waiting to set you free for the adventure of a lifetime!

LIFT OFF!

Posted: October 31, 2011 in Culture, God

Concert Rehearsal

I am absolutely blessed to be a part of our upcoming benefit concert for needy families,  LIFT, on Sunday, November 13th at 6PM at the church (check it out at www.cvchurch.com). Everyone knows that this economy has hurt people, but we often forget that some of those people live right here in our own neighborhoods. It’s great to work on this concert, where our team cranks up a bunch of awesome songs from John Mayer, Coldplay, Seal, Stevie Wonder (in a Stevie Ray Vaughan way!), The Script, and many others. More important than the music are the people coming to the concert. They will also bring canned foods and toiletry items for a local charity, Sue’s Garden, which helps families who have been hit by the hard times right in our own neighborhood. Our goal is to collect 2 TONS of food!

It’s awesome to put on a concert like LIFT right before Thanksgiving for two reasons. First, we all get to do good and help the less fortunate by giving of our blessings. Second, I’m really exited about having local families, who don’t necessarily know God, come to church and do good with us. Someone commented that it’s great, because by participating they are actually doing something God created us to do!

In addition to all that, we’re meeting those people where they are at by not playing any worship, but just great music. LIFT will be AWESOME! You can join us by stocking up on canned foods & toiletries and coming by on Sunday, Nov. 13th, see you there! Here are some useful links with more info:

Crescenta Valley Community Church

LIFT on Facebook

Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...

Image via Wikipedia

And now for something totally different. As life would have it, things happen to show who you really are, not who you would like to be. Quick caveat: By no means do any of the following statements refer to the writer, far be it from me! Enjoy and comment if you have more ideas along these lines!

You might be middle-aged if…

…you start seeing more and more younger people than yourself everywhere.

…you wake up one morning with UFOs (Unidentified Fighting Objects) running around your home. You have no idea how they got there. They have a lot in common with their more space-y siblings: They can go at warp speed, turn on a dime against all the laws of physics, and their heads are disproportionally big for their bodies. Oh, and they also have big, wide eyes and they may talk in a foreign language!

…you end up driving a big honkin’ SUV or even better, a family van that you desperately try to call your “man van” (who the heck came up with that stupid name anyway?) Sorry, dude, you can call it whatever you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that while driving it, you look enviously at other guys in their real cars and imagine the roar of a real engine instead of the 4-cylinder you had to settle with, because your kids ate up all your car savings!

…your hair stops growing where it should and starts growing where it shouldn’t.

…your “me time” consists of endless “yes dears”, referee sessions with the aforementioned UFO’s and falling on your bed before it all hits you again in the morning.

…your body starts telling you what you can and can’t do instead of the other way around.

…you start finding out that most all of your favorite foods and drinks will not just be passing through, but are deviously setting up permanent residence above your buttocks (love handles) or/and around your bellybutton (heart-attack fat!) Cheeks and necks are also favorite spots for these permanent vacationers, and that’s just for men. By this time, self-preservation instinct has taught this writer to not even go to the ladies!

…you have a cup of coffee at 7PM thinking it won’t affect your sleep, but the caffeine ends up keeping you awake until 2AM while you keep thinking about the endless possibilities of writing a blog titled “You Might Be Middle-aged If…”

…one of the aforementioned UFOs ends up waking up to a nightmare or getting sick, keeping you up in the middle of the night. Hey, that was your “me time!”

…the same UFO wakes up at 6AM and jumps on your bed playing his video game. Hey, that was your “me time!”

…you find out that your scepter, the tv remote, starts mysteriously levitating all around your home, never to be found in the crucial last minutes and seconds before start of the game. In time, it will pass permanently into the hands of the aforementioned UFOs to symbolize the switch of power on the throne of your home.

…you start finding out that more and more of your favorite foods will give you heartburn or mess with your body in unending ways.

…you start realizing that it takes less and less luck and more and more hard work and focus to reach your goals.

…you look enviously at younger guys with ripped bodies and can’t even make it to the gym three times a week to stay in some kind of decent shape, not to mention just stepping out the door and taking a short walk!

…you convert your garage into a “man cave.” Cut it off! The last time men lived in caves, they were cavemen. (A joke, lighten up, you religious readers!)

…you work your butt off to bring in the bread only to find that it ran out because the store didn’t happen to have it that day.

…you realize that the lyrics in the old song, “Yeah, money talks, mine always says goodbye” are not only true, but that it feels like you’re the only one it happens to. Rest assured, you’re definitely not! The more money, the bigger the pile it says “goodbye” in!

This might just be the tip of the iceberg. Chime in and leave a comment if you have ideas about the issue!

TO OUR HEROES

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Culture, God
Tags: , , , , , , ,
The 9/11 issue of The Spectator.

Image via Wikipedia

To those who gave everything on 9/11 ten years ago, thank you, even though these words seem to be totally inadequate in comparison to your sacrifice. May you never be forgotten, and may you always be honored among free men. Thanks to people like you, this grateful immigrant family is able to live in the USA in safety and among people of integrity and honor.

Words are not enough, but this comes close: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Hotel / Casino New York-New York in Las Vegas.

Image via Wikipedia

Our friends gave us a week in their Las Vegas time-share, which was a real blessing as we had no money for a vacation after buying a car, so thanks so much, guys! There’s not much to see in between L.A. and Vegas, unless you count the world’s largest thermometer or a 50’s diner with a dinosaur park…

Yes, somebody had to make one...

…or a splitting image of FINLAND on the side of a Nevada mountain. (I guess you’d have to be Finnish to really appreciate it!)

The map of Finland on the side of a mountain. Amazing!

Having spent just a week in Vegas, I really don’t get how people are able to live here! It’s been over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (That’s 43 degrees Celsius to you Europeans!) most of the week, and we’ve had a very testing time here. This really puts Jesus’ 40 days in the desert in perspective! Both kids have been sick, but that hasn’t kept us from the hotel pool, which has just about the balmiest water you could imagine…

Stepping outside, the heat clings your shirt to your skin as soon as you hit the sidewalk. We’ve taken short walks as we’re only a block away from the Strip. That, by the way, is a very appropriate name, since the newspaper boxes are full of girl catalogs and sidewalks are full of people in t-shirts screaming “GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!” and other variations of the same theme, while the people wearing them slap their “business cards” and try to hand them over to guys, girls and yes, sometimes this husband and father of two, who is WALKING WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO KIDS! Sin City, for sure, but God is even there. In the middle of it, I suddenly heard a quiet voice in my heart say, “You don’t belong in this world.” What an awesome moment. Then I looked at my family around me, and the same quiet voice said, “Strength.” Looking at the peddlers with their cards, one last word, “Weakness.” It felt amazing to hear God protect and guide us through this maze. We did our best to walk by the rag mag boxes, blocking them from the view of our 5-year-old son Miro. You might think he wouldn’t get it, but when it comes to protecting our kids, you are talking to a tiger. I will do whatever it takes to allow our children to grow up healthy and free of junk, thank you very much!

Downtown Las Vegas

Las Vegas has been built up like you wouldn’t believe, and it isn’t all pretty. Just because you have money, it doesn’t mean you’ll create something beautiful. What used to be is now covered by ritzy skyscrapers and shopping malls that look generic and unwelcoming. To me, it kinda sums up living life without God. You end up with a lot of things, both material and immaterial, but there’s no heart, no redemption, no eternity. I wouldn’t choose it…

Where's the soul?

It seems no coincidence that the “New Center of Las Vegas” is in trouble, some of its cold, steel structures even before they open up. Just check this article on the Harmon Hotel. Not even opened yet, it might be demolished before receiving its first guest! Talking about construction, this building caught our eye by the North Premium Outlets:

Would you like to live in here?

Even with all the gloominess, there are still some great things in Vegas. Check out the lions at the MGM Grand:

Thank God for the glass in between!

A 1/3 replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino is a personal favorite:

The Other Eiffel Tower

The Twin Towers

The greatest thing about Las Vegas? Meeting with God! We just returned from a Sunday morning visit at Central Christian Church and heard some amazing worship by their band and a great teaching by Jud Wilhite about making time for what really matters. Their creativity was inspiring, and they reach people from strippers and addicts on, God is doing amazing work there!

Central Christian Church in Las Vegas

Even better than going to church was a moment on holy ground right on the Strip the other day. We were walking by the M&M store (13 bucks for a pound, what’s up with that?!?) and saw a young man dancing on the sidewalk. Thinking nothing of it, we passed him by the next day and heard a worship song about Jesus blasting loud in the middle of people dressed up as anything from Iron Man to strippers in cop uniforms, earning their living from tips by letting people take photos with them. I had to walk up to Jeffrey, as he then introduced himself. We said a quick hello, I told him how much I loved what he was doing, and we parted ways saying that we’d be meeting up in heaven one day (God willing!) It was an amazing moment in the desert heat surrounded by a city that thrives on sin and it reminds me of God’s words about how grace abounds even more where darkness reigns. God adds life to everything, and it’s awesome to experience Vegas with Him.

Mango drinks for everyone!

Iron Man (video game)

Image via Wikipedia

My son’s favorite superhero is Iron Man. As a matter of fact, it’s only two weeks until his 5th birthday, and the theme for the whole party will be… You guessed it, Iron Man! Seeing him kick the butt of evil is inspiring to me, and even when he’s overcome by evil, he always finds a way to pull through and make things right. We need such heroes today!

But how the mighty have fallen. Anthony Weiner is just the latest in a string of politicians who have felt they can live above the code of conduct that regular people try to live by (And fail as well.) And don’t even get me started with celebrities and the current state of music. I tried to find some good summer hits for a concert we’re doing at church in July, and the songs were so tasteless that we can’t do any of them! While all this is going on, it also seems that heroes of the past are getting stripped of their status.  It doesn’t matter who it is, there seems to be a desire to dig out something from the person’s past to pull them into the mud and make it stick.

All of this is happening at a time when kids are acting up at an alarming rate. They are lost and crave to see people rise up and show them how to live well. Even adults need other adults to look up to and be inspired by, but at this rate, who will be left to fill that role?

Just in time for Father’s Day, I want to encourage all of you (You too, ladies!) to step it up and live a life of a hero. Embrace who God made you to be and listen to what He is calling you to do. It doesn’t matter how many or few you think you are influencing, because you influence more people than you think. Just because you don’t hear every story of your impact, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one! In the modern world we live in, even the smallest acts of kindness, love, courtesy and caring stand out as towering examples of the love of God. This is worship at its finest. Here are some of my heroes, maybe you want to comment and share yours?

-My pastor, Scott Wood. Relentless pursuit of Jesus and an unwavering commitment to love others and meet every need he sees.

-My mom, who held our family together through some tough times growing up.

-My wife, who single-handedly keeps two small kids in check and helps them to learn to be kind, compassionate and loving. (As the younger one screams in the background as I’m typing this!)

-My friend and brother Scott, who stands with me through thick and thin, inspiring me and helping me navigate this adventure of life, worship and music.

-Many others who have committed to Jesus and serve alongside us at church, choosing to give of their time, hearts, resources and talents to a higher cause… Hey, that’s exactly what heroes do! A BIG THANK YOU!

The End of the World Is Nigh

Image by swanksalot via Flickr

So evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping said that the end of the world happened last Saturday. Big whopping surprise, we’re all still here even though the Rapture was supposed to happen! I’ve got just one beef with the prophecy: In the most famous chapter regarding the end of the world, Jesus says flat out that nobody knows the time, only the Father knows! (See Matt. 24:36)  It aggravates me and makes me laugh at the same time to read about this stuff. Atheists had Rapture parties here and there to mock this guy, and I was tempted to go join them! It breaks my heart for them that one day all this will happen for real, we just don’t know the date. There will be no rapture parties then…

So much silly stuff is done in the name of God, but sadly, so much evil has been done in the name of God and Christianity, as well. I just want to say one thing. We are not those people.

When a Koran was burned in Florida and people died in the Middle East, we weren’t there lighting up the match. We were too busy working to make our Sunday morning a safe place where hurting people could come and find Jesus. When a pastor of a church of 50 spews hatred that is completely against the will of God, we in the millions disagree with him completely. We believe what the Bible says about loving God and loving people, even our enemies.

When terrorists kill civilians to forward their agenda of a totalitarian, religious world, we are not those people. We are too busy finding ways to feed the poor, put an arm on the shoulder of someone who just lost a loved one and going into prisons to love those society has rejected. We don’t yearn for a takeover of the world, we long for the healing of this hurting world through love. That’s who we are.

When the Crusades were happening, we hadn’t been born. Those who took the Word of God almost a thousand years ago (Time to move forward, anyone?!) and used it to kill those who didn’t believe in it were doing the will of our enemy, not the will of God. We are not those people. There’s a big difference between living your life for God and using His name to do what you wanted to do all along. Just because someone takes the Honda sign and puts it on an old Buick, it doesn’t magically turn an old beater into a fancy and dependable car. You need the heart of the car – the engine – too. Claiming God’s name over your actions doesn’t automatically make you godly.

When the 20th century was lit ablaze by world wars, communism and totalitarianism, they were all caused by secular tyrants and movements. The evil they perpetrated was based on principles that were completely contrary to what God’s Word says.  True believers were busy alleviating the suffering on both sides, and some even died for doing it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands as a towering testimony of courage from those days. Some in the church committed a grave sin by their silence. They were scared for their own lives and stayed silent when they should have stood up for what is good and right. That’s not what God wants from us, either. We are not perfect, we are just saved. I fall short from the ideal on a daily basis, but I keep trying…

Yes, so much evil is done in the name of God, but if people become like God in their own minds and use His name to do their evil, it still doesn’t make God bad. It makes those people bad, and we are not those people. God is who he says he is. He is good, He is loving and kind, and He is also just. He will deal with those who do evil in His name and reward those who live for Him. As a matter of fact, He will deal with all of us! What do you choose?