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And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awaken out of sleep…Romans 13:11

One of my challenges every morning is not staying awake after my alarm goes off. It seems so enticing to hit that snooze button (multiple times) and go back for a few more minutes of restful bliss.

Like mostly everyone, I’ve been riveted to the television watching the horrors created by the earthquake in Haiti. It is heartbreaking seeing dead bodies strewn across the streets, injured people without health care and children wandering the streets looking for loved ones. The destruction is shocking.

One of the things that has come to the attention of a lot of us who are so consumed with our own lives and issues, is the poverty and challenges faced by our neighbors just hundreds of miles away. Haiti had a need for aid even before the earthquake this week. It’s similar to New Orleans and in particular the Lower Ninth Ward – there were needs before Katrina.

Now we have been woken up to the critical need in Haiti. Please do all you can to help in this relief and recovery effort. But I urge us all not to hit snooze when this story no longer leads off the nightly news. When some celebrity scandal becomes the big thing, don’t go back to sleep on the needs of Haiti. While we are awake, let’s stay awake. Let’s continue to find those places where there are critical needs because of poverty, disease and disasters and by God’s grace let’s do all we can to help them. Don’t go back to sleep!

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We are encouraging everyone to go to http://www.wiiserve.org and click on the link to give to ADRA – the Adventist Disaster and Relief Agency. They are already on the ground in Haiti helping.

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? James 2:1-4

I was watching a youtube video of a couple who like to play pranks on each other. In one particularly cruel prank, the girlfriend presents a Christmas gift to her boyfriend. Now he had been hinting to her that he wanted a Nintendo Wii gaming system. When he tore off the gift wrapping paper, lo and behold he was holding a Wii box. Can you imagine his joy as he jumped around, hugged her and celebrated this present? The trick was, the box was filled with college text books. You can figure out how he felt next.

What’s interesting is that sometimes we do the same thing with human beings? We assign value to them based on how they look on the outside and how they measure up to our standards.

How many times we judge people’s intelligence, character based on what they have on? It is a human struggle. However what we need to do is to continually remind ourselves to see Jesus in everyone. One of my friends says that he tries to treat everyone as a millionaire.

Let’s strive to not judge the contents by the wrapping. Recognize the owner of the package and assign value based on Him.

Happy New Year. Isn’t it awesome that God gives us opportunities to start over? With each new day, new week, new month, new season and each new year, God gives us opportunities to press the reset button and start over. As humans we get excited about these opportunities because they give us a chance to better what we’ve done before.

As we all lay plans and goals for the new year, I would like to challenge all of us to live by the words of Psalms 1:1-3

1How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does,he prospers.

This year, we want to be like that tree with green lives: leading a healthy, balanced life.

Here are a four areas we are seeking health in:

1. Devotional Health – seeking to walk with God daily and grow in our intimacy with Him.

2. Physical Health – we want to become more healthy through embracing good health practices.

3. Financial Health – this year we want to seek to order our money according to God’s word and wise financial practices.

4. Healthy Earth – we want to be good stewards of this earth that God has given us to care for. We want to seek ways to be more environmentally conscious and friendly.

It’s a huge challenge and we can only do it through God’s power. Let’s Go Green 4 God!

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29

Growing up our neighbors were like family to us. I remember when my parents would work during the day in the summer time, we would hang out over at the neighbors’ house. Being neighbors should mean something. And it did in Jesus’ day.

In the story referenced in the text in Luke 10 above a rich young man asks Jesus who was his neighbor. I suspect the reason he did is he wanted to find out all the people that fell under the command to “love your neighbor.” He would then love all those people and no one else.

You know it’s interesting for all of us, we have to answer that question – who is my neighbor? Who am I required to love, look out for, put myself in their shoes, not just give charity but share life with? Who is my neighbor?

One of the things I’m learning is that the more you seek to live a life of service, to imitate Christ, your neighborhood expands. Your neighbors aren’t just your church friends and school friends and people who have things in common with you. Your neighborhood includes everyone you meet.

I think Jesus wants us to break down the artificial dividing walls that keep us comfortable with an “us” and “them” mentality.

Small disclosure story to end this blog – my wife and I just came back from a cruise for our 9th anniversary. It was an exciting, relaxing vacation for us. But in the process, God expanded our neighborhood. We met two individuals who touched our hearts, our room attendant and food server. We listened to their stories about life on the ship.

We were convicted that our fun was supporting a system where people were being exploited. We found some neighbors on that ship and their pain became our pain and we can no longer look at things the same. Our personal conviction (which I’m not throwing on you) is that we will not do a cruise again once those conditions for cruise ship workers are in place.

Here’s my challenge to you – expand your neighborhood. Get to know people who you ordinarily don’t interact with. Answering the question “who’s my neighbor?” the right way, will change your life.

Day 6 – Planned Acts of Kindness (PAK) Challenge and it’s getting challenging. Yesterday’s challenge was to call a family member or friend you have not talked to in a while and tell them you were thinking of them.

Now family matters are personal stuff. Usually when you try to ask people too many questions about their family they get uncomfortable. You run the risk of getting too personal. Yesterday’s challenge made me get personal.

I realized two important things because of yesterday’s PAK – 1. It’s easier for me to stay in contact with work related associates than some of my relatives and 2. Even though we have more methods of communication (text, email, facebook, twitter), we are losing the personal touch.

So yesterday I called a couple of my aunts and an uncle who I had not spoken to in a while. We had great conversations and instead of just firing off a text or poking them on fb, it allowed us to get personal. We could hear each others laugh, talk about nothing and simply catch up. If you didn’t do it, try it. Let’s get personal – call (or if it’s possible, visit) a family or friend you’ve not talked to in a while. You’ll be glad you did (and maybe they will too).

I hope by now you have begun doing the daily Planned Act of Kindness (PAK) Challenge that we are encouraging through the 40 Days of Service campaign on wiiserve.org. If not you are missing a blessing. It is true what the Bible says that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Today’s challenge was to write a thank you note to your mail carrier. We expanded it to writing a thank you note to someone who typically serves you. That includes mail carriers, cafeteria workers, cashiers at the local store or restaurant servers.

I had written a note for the mail carrier who delivers to my house while at work. While sitting there I heard the mail man at the office. I quickly went and wrote him a thank you note. It was a pleasure to deliver this envelope without a stamp to him simply to say thanks.

Now do we really have to thank these people? Really they are getting paid to do it. It’s their job. And the truth is we don’t. But I think it helps us to recognize that they are more than what they do…they are real people with families and lives and instead of treating them like objects, saying thank you affirms them as people.

So this thanksgiving season, beyond saying thanks to God, thank someone who you usually take for granted because of what they do. I challenge you to do it in a written format instead of just verbally. Thank them for what they do and more importantly for who they are.

Day 4 of our 40 Days of Service and 2nd Day of Planned Acts of Kindness (wiiserve.org). Well today’s challenge was to share your umbrella with someone. An umbrella in use would generally accompany rain falling. And rain falling is not something we can control. As much as we have good intentions of performing that task, we can’t do it without help.

Today I am glad to report that it rained in Kansas City. Usually I’m not a fan of the ran but today I was glad about it. It allowed me a chance to open up that umbrella and share it with one of my co-workers as she walked to her car.

Helping others requires divine intervention. Rain usually symbolizes blessings. Serving others requires God’s blessings to be present for us to share. We can never allow ourselves to be proud about all the service we are doing because if God didn’t send His rain, then we wouldn’t be able to do the small tasks we do. Remember He controls the rain.

Well today was the first Planned Act of Kindness (PAK) challenge for our wiiserve 40 Days of Service and Sacrifice. (If you want the full calendar go to wiiserve.org and click Calendar).

Today’s challenge was to open the door for a stranger. I was on my last stop before heading back home, at the library and I had not had an opportunity to open the door. I whispered a prayer silently to God to give me an opportunity to do so. On my way out, someone walked up to the door and I was able to get the door for them and give them a nice smile.

Now I know this doesn’t seem like a biggie – open the door for a stranger. Some of you do it everyday. But what’s the big deal for me is that God answers our prayers to provide opportunities for us to serve others for Him.

Over these 40 Days, why not seek God daily for an open door to serve others for Him. Partner with Him to touch lives of those around you. It’s so much more awesome serving with God than on our own.

I’m about to get in shape…again. The tool of choice this time is going to be P90X. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a revolutionary workout, diet program that is guaranteed to sculpt your body in just 90 days. So I’m about to try it.

But it hit me that this revolutionary tool has a lot of company in my never ending quest for physical fitness. It lines up behind my exercise bike and Ab cruncher in the basement. I used them for a few weeks faithfully but then stopped due to some reason (a goood one). This journey has also included my pedometer where I was doing my 10,000 plus steps a day. Walking vigorously lasted a few months but then my pedometer broke and I never replaced it.

This exercise quest also included early morning jogging. I bought some running shoes, clothes and an ipod to listen to music. That lasted a few weeks but then my shoes hurt and I never got them fixed. We then started using the Hip Hop abs video exercises (please don’t tell anyone I did that). It worked for a few weeks but then I got tired. Then it was off to the gym for some months. Actually enjoyed it. But then it got too cold to go out and so we canceled the membership.

Lastly I bought the Nintendo wii fit. That had to work because I didn’t have to go out and it was fun. Except I only lasted two sessions.

Well here we are – P90X. The truth is I just need some consistency. So here’s what I’m trying. I’m coming clean and asking you to help keep me accountable. When you see me ask me how the exercise program is going. Hit me up on fb and make sure I’m off the couch and working out.

I don’t think I’m the only one that struggles with consistency in exercising,work, time with my kids, even devotional habits. Let’s become a community where we help keep each other accountable. We’re not always strong on our own. Let’s lean on each other. That will help our consistency.

“Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he (Jesus) got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26

I grew up in a family with three rambunctious boys of which I’m the oldest.We competed and fought all the time. In order to get the upper hand I have to shamefully admit I exploited my brothers’ fears. Now don’t let them know I said this but one was afraid of the mop. To get him in check you just had to grab the mop and the scraggly strands would scare him straight. My other brother (who can probably break me in two with his bare hands now) had an even more irrational fear. He was afraid of cotton. All I needed to do to get him in line was to threaten to bring cotton to him. He would be shaking.

My parents would sometimes intercept and ask them “Why are you afraid?” It’s the same question Jesus asks the disciples in Matthew 8:26 when they frantically awoke Him during the storm. And I believe it’s the same thing He asks us when we get all scared during the stress of life.

I’m sure the disciples thought they were justified in being afraid. And we usually come up with good reasons for our fear. But if we’re honest we let fear paralyze us and take it to an irrational point.

Don’t let fear stop you for moving forward, stepping up, serving, doing something great, pursuing your dreams, making a change in life. Instead have faith in God and His ability to calm not just the storms outside us but the storms inside us like fear, anxiety and despair.

Why are you afraid? And what can you be doing if you exchanged your fear for faith?