Change

“When it comes to change, there are three seasons of timing: People change when they hurt enough that they have to, when they learn enough that
they want to, and when they receive enough
that they are able to.”— John Maxwell

Cheers to our Moms

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I am thinking of three amazing Moms – my own Mom, my wife the Mom of my two kids and my daughter-in-law, the Mom of my two grand kids. Their selfless sacrifices, deep love and compassion are worthy of applause and cheers. I am sure many of you feel the same way about the Moms in your life.

Honoring Moms once a year seems unfair, as we know we are unable honor and love those that we could never repay. 

Moms carried us 9 months and then carried us until we could walk and then emotionally and in practical ways carried us beyond that, in many ways all the days of her life. She communicated with us before we could even talk.  We learned how to form words from watching her lips as she expressed her love for us.  She listened to us when we did not even make sense and guided us when we would have otherwise lost our way.   

The following story is fictitious story, but holds great truism. When the Lord created mothers, he was well into his sixth day of overtime. An angel appeared and said, “You’re doing lots of fiddling with this one.” The Lord replied, “have you seen the specs on this order?  She has to be completely washable, unbreakable, but not made of plastic.  She has to have hundreds of moving parts. She has to run on little sleep and posses a kiss that can cure anything. She also has to have six pairs of hands.” The angel shook his head slowly and said, ‘Six pairs of hands, no way.” The Lord replied, “it’s not the hands that’s causing me problems, it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have, one pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, “What are you kids doing in there?” when she already knows; the other on the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she needs to know; and of course the ones in front that look at a child when they make a mistake and say, “I understand and I still love you.”

The Lord said, “This creation is amazing, she can actually heal herself when she is sick, cook great meals out of nothing. Even though she knows the truth, she has unending forgiveness. She is strong, but she is soft.  She never stops even though she is weary.”  

The angel ran his finger across the cheek of this mother. “Oops, he said, there’s a leak, you’re putting too much into this model and it’s starting to leak.”   

The Lord said, “that’s not a leak, it’s called a tear.”

The angel said, “What’s that for? The Lord said, “It’s for joy.  It’s for sadness.  It’s for disappointment, and it’s for pain.  It’s for loneliness, and it’s for when she’s proud.” The angel shouted, “You’re a genius putting in tears.” And the Lord replied, “I did not put the tears in.” The angel said, “Then who did?” The Lord slowly replied, “She did it herself.  Those kinds only come from deep within when a mother truly becomes a mother.”

Moms, thanks for the love, the service, the heart and above all the tears! Cheers to you and may God bless you this Mother’s Day and everyday for all you do – we could never repay you!

My prayers and thanks to all you Moms for all you do and the love you share,

Pastor Bernie 

The Fuel for Loving Others

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On June 25, 1967 the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) commissioned the Beatles to write a song for the United Kingdom’s contribution to a T.V. show, called Our World, which was the first live global television link. The Beatles were asked to write and perform a song that would contain a simple message to be understood by all nations. What was the song that they wrote? “Love is all you need.” And with that song the Beatles struck a nerve that was felt around the world, as it hit home in the heart of over 400 million television viewers. After playing this song to over 400 million viewers, they quickly released it in the UK, where it soared to the top of the charts to number 1, and then after that they released the song in the US where it also reached number 1 on the billboard charts.

The concept of love reaches down into the deepest part of almost every human being’s heart and soul. It has such an appeal to the human race that Amazon has over 245,000 books with the word “Love” in its title.  If you do a Google search on the word “love” you will find that it has over 474 million entries on it and growing. 

Even though there is so much interest in love, and so many ideas about what love is, it sure seems as if the world has truly missed the mark in understanding love as well as in defining love, and most importantly in practicing and experiencing love. 

What do you do when you’re low on love? Okay you make a choice to love….got it….but what do you do when the choices are not easily forthcoming?  I know, try harder!  But what then? Keep forgiving others, loving others, even those who are unlovely. 

Could it be we are missing something? Could it be that the secret to loving is receiving? You give love by first receiving love. “We love each other as a result of his loving us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT).

Know how much God loves you and receive His love.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2 NIV, 
We cannot imitate or do what God does if we do not know what He does….or more importantly who He is. 

God is love. 

Not just that He loves, or has capacity to love, but it is who He is! 

Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 NIV). Before we give, we must receive it! 

Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put you first. Think of Good Friday that is upon us and Easter to come, amazing love for sure. “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (Phil. 2:6 NLT).

Having trouble being generous? Then consider how generous God has been with you (Rom. 5:8). Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or difficult neighbors? God puts up with me and you when we are complaining and difficult.

Here is a great verse for us all: “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35 NIV).

In our study in First John ( at LFC on Sunday) The apostle John models the right sequence. He tells us: God loves you. 

God has placed His love in your heart. 

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his only son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (John 4:9-10 NLT)

Read one of my favorite verses on the subject: Romans 5:5 and then take time to call on God to pour His love into your heart. Allow Him to fill you up to overflowing so your love flows out to others. 

John calls on you and me to let love flow from our hearts, once we have caught God’s love.
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (vs 11 NLT).

The secret to loving is living loved. Many people tell us to love. Only God gives us the power to do so.

Let’s love others, it could be all they need right now. 

Pastor Bernie 

Looking and Chasing

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Philippians 3:14

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (NLT)

You may have watched the Academy awards a few weeks ago. I caught parts of the show and a few moments really struck me. Deeper than the hostess of the show ordering out for pizza was the acceptance speech by Matthew McConaughey for winning the Best Actor Oscar. If you heard it then you know it was one inspiring three-minute speech. McConaughey managed to give a very profound yet simple life philosophy to follow in three easy to remember points. He said, “there are three things to my account that I need each day:

1. Have Something to look up to.
Actually he defined it as ‘Someone’ to look up to. It is to clearly acknowledge your limitations and the existence of God who is limitless. McConaughey said, “I look up to God who has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.” He went on to say that he had learned that gratitude reciprocates.  Understanding of and belief in God as a source greater than yourself places us in the rightful place. God is creator and we are creature, God is Shepherd and we are sheep. The truth is you are not God and neither am I, that is great news and a great personal realization as many people attempt to be the god of their life, world, family and work.
2. Have Something to look forward to.
This is the importance of hope in our lives and positive expectations, as well as recognizing the value of family. In his speech, McConaughey thanked his family. He spoke directly to his wife in the audience and his kids watching the show at home and said, “you are the four people that I want to make the most proud.” Who are you making proud and what are you looking forward to in the coming season? Are you hopeful and positive or allowing yourself to be defined by present reality or past failure?

3. Have Someone to chase
McConaughhey said, chase your hero. Hero worship can be a slippery slope – when we “want to be like someone else” we often slip into copying (trying to be like them ) or discouragement (“I could never be like them”). The more valuable approach to heroes is to see what we can learn from them to become our best self. McConaughey’s approach reduces the risk of following a hero and puts the aspirational focus on ourselves. Having yourself as your hero, is a very positive and decision guiding point of view, for in a sense you are continually creating your hero in ten years by what you do today. The decisions and choices you make today will determine who you will be in five to ten years. This statement of ‘have someone to chase,’ is one of forward progression. It is a personal pressing to become the best version of you. Will you like who you become in five years? The current road you are traveling on will be a good assessment tool of what the future will be like. What adjustments and course corrections can you make to arrive at a place where you become a hero to yourself? Where can your trust in God (looking up) help you in your journey of becoming a better version of yourself?

So where can God help you in your growth? Are you allowing other people in your life to assist you and spur you on?

Your life is more valuable than an Oscar award or a movie script, it is your one shot and giving God glory this side of Heaven. Make the most of it.

Keep pressing on,

Pastor Bernie

Your Marriage Matters

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I recently met with a gentleman (I will call Steve for the sake of the story) who is going through a difficult season in his marriage.  As I have heard before he was not as aware as his wife was of their ‘drift’ from each other. Someone may say, ‘I just woke up one morning and realized that things were not the same in our marriage.’ When people say this, I usually say back, ‘you obviously have not been paying attention, nothing just happens overnight.’

I wonder how many of you reading this have recognized the ‘drift’ in your marriage – a loss of the once ‘loving feelin’ or the spark that was there.  While nothing was dramatically wrong in Steve’s marriage, there was a new atmosphere of putting each other down. What had begun as humor and innocuous teasing had slowly become a bad habit. The bad habit grew into something more significant and killing mutual respect. I gave them Steve some ideas and pointers and linked him up with an older and wiser couple who helped he and wife make some intentional adjustments to their relationship.  Four key points emerged for them to deeply consider.

1/ Mutual respect. It may not sound romantic but it is key to a healthy marriage. Mutual respect shares the chores, the pressures of running a household and also appreciates the done out of the home to bring money into the home.

2/ Acceptance. Your spouse needs to know they will be accepted by you no matter how they may fail or fall. They need to have the safety of this acceptance there for them.

3/ Compassion. This might seem simple but showing you really care about what your spouse is saying, sharing or dealing with creates a safety and assurance that runs deep. Take time to listen fully to what your spouse shares with you and stay away from being critical and condescending. 

4/ Compromise. Compromise means coming to a mutually agreeable solution – something you can both live with. You may still think you’re right and your spouse is wrong, but it can often be better to try and merge your ideas until you hit on something that satisfies both of you, rather than one of you feeling slighted or angry.

Additionally I would submit the following thoughts to consider:

It’s the little things that add up and become really big things.
A marriage can be rocked by an accumulation of little things said or left unsaid, things done or left undone.
Even for couples with great senses of humor, making the person you love the brunt of the joke cuts more deeply than you think.

Name calling and cutting comments lodge in the heart and eventually drain affection. Honoring your spouse and delivering life-giving comments enriches affection.

Remember this (parents) the way you talk to your spouse is most likely the way your sons and daughters will talk to theirs. The way you talk to your spouse is most likely the way your sons and daughters will allow themselves to BE talked to by theirs.

So, how is your marriage doing? Are there some habits that have slowly developed and are beginning to erode your marriage? Rate your mutual respect, acceptance, compassion and compromise. How are you doing? Take time to have a deep and open discussion with your spouse about the areas listed above. 

I often tell couples to look for two things ( just two ) that each other can improve upon, stop doing or start doing to have impact on the other. Ask your spouse, what two things could I be doing or not doing that would make a dramatic difference in your heart. Notice I said, heart!  We often neglect making heart-felt investments and this is the key to a healthy marriage. Start assessing, start asking and start investing.

I am praying for your marriage,

Pastor Bernie 


The Battle for Contentment

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I remember it like yesterday. I had an old Stingray Bike that I had just finished up. It was old and used, but to me, it was gold. I had spent several weekends polishing the spokes and rims, sprockets and all, painted the frame and took some handlebars off another bike I had and did an Overhaulin’ of my own. Ready to roll,  I rode it the next day to 7th grade feeling pretty cool until….until Andy rode up on his brand new Schwinn. The crowd circled the bike racks to get a glimpse of it and no one much cared for mine at that moment. After school I remember riding mine home with a disappointment in my heart. What was amazing to me the day before became just another bike the very next day.  

In 1965 the Rolling Stones put out a big hit called, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. The song could easily be the story of many lives. I listened to the story of a man who complained about how much money he was making and how little he really had. He actually had quite a bit and when I told him that his income put him in the top 1% of the entire world’s income, he became agitated. According to the most recent census, the median income for Lompoc places those at median and above in that same 1%. Those below median are in the top 2 to 5%.  We are rich and yet often discontent. We can easily fall into the trap of what we do not have rather than what we do have. The story of my bike reminds me that.

It seems like rich is always the other person – the nicer house – the nicer car, the new bike. Rich is the other guy. Rich is that other family. Rich isn’t just having extra it is having as much extra as the person who has more extra than you. Rich is having more than you currently have.

If that’s the case, you can be rich and not know it. You can be rich and not feel it. You can be rich and not act like it and not matter what you obtain or how blessed you are, you fight with discontentment.

There is a great biblical passage in which the writer, the Apostle Paul, who is going through hardships and actually writes these words from a prison cell tell us, “ I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 11 – 13) I have learned is that my faith needs to dictate my contentment and not my circumstances. I need to focus on what I have not what I lack and be grateful. For me, the power of true contentment can only be obtained through the power of Christ. Contentment is not a matter of circumstances; it is a matter of your spirit.

When the Devil tempted Jesus, the creator of the universe, he knew that he had to bring out his best lures—dissatisfaction and discontentment. So the devil told the creator, “If You are the Son of God why are You so poor?” Again the devil tempted him: “Turn these stones to bread.” And the Devil asked, “Why does no one like you and why don’t you even have a place to lay your head and rest?”

The Devil still uses these lures on us today. The result is that a downward slide begins in your life and you start to experience:

Dissatisfaction – You get dissatisfied with your job, your pay, marriage, house, car, church, etc.

Jealousy – When you are dissatisfied then you secretly become jealous and start to covet.

Temptation – With temptation the devil knows what bait to put on the hook.

When you are dissatisfied with an area of your life you send a notification to all of hell. The Devil monitors it and knows exactly how to attack you. When you are temptable that is when marriages are destroyed and people get dissatisfied and start to covet. Then you are ready to be hooked and reeled into discontentment and then you fall for anything. 

Consequently you tell yourself, “Why is it so hard to live this Christian life? I’m fighting every day!” That’s because every day you are fighting this temptation. Be grateful for what you have, press into the power and presence of Jesus through whom you can do all things….even be content.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Bernie Federmann

A Heart and Focus Adjustment

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“You change your life by changing your heart.” – Max Lucado

If your heart and focus do not change there is no real and sustained change. 

Jesus modeled for us compassion and comfort as he demonstrated these often during his ministry.  He would see the people troubled with all sorts of problems and ailments and the bible records for us that; “Jesus was filled with compassion.”  It’s describing this deep connection with people’s pain and suffering.

 

2 Corinthians 1: 2 – 7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

 

God’s story is about Him meeting people in their pain and brokenness and taking the initiative to restore them to His original design and plan.  Where people walked in close relationship with God and whose lives displayed His character:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And as God enters into your pain and brokenness, He invites you to join Him in His story of reconciliation and restoration.  It’s a story filled with drama, suspense, heartache and victory.  It’s a story dripping with hope and a bright future.  And every time God provides comfort and help to you it adds to your piece of God’s story. In the above verse we see these words; “so that we can comfort.”  This little phrase conveys that there’s a deeper purpose for God comforting you than just your comfort.  As God comforts you, He’s also equipping or preparing you to be able to be His comfort to someone else in the future.  It changes our hearts and our focus. 

God desires to comfort us and intends that we then comfort others.

 

Some time ago I came across some a story that Franklin Lavin, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, under President Ronald Reagan had written. Lavin shared a story about an appearance the President was making at an Alabama school for handicapped children. The event was going super well, until one of the children with a severe speech impediment asked a question of the President. No one in the audience was able to understand and tension filled the room. Reagan calmly asked him to repeat the question, and the atmosphere great worse as no one understood the student.  Lavin shares: “The teachers froze. What was to have been an upbeat day was turning into a disaster… Reagan to the rescue. ‘I’m sorry’ he said with a smile, ‘but you know I’ve got this hearing aid in my ear. Every once in awhile the darn thing just conks out on me. And it’s just gone dead. Sorry to put you through this again, but I’m going to ask one of my staff people to go over to you so you can tell them directly what your question is. Then he can pass it back to me.’”  This is what caring, gentle people do. If they see someone hurting, they try to help. Recently I was asked to attend a meeting on the homeless situation in our community. I was grateful to see the hearts of those in the room. Now no one person had the all the answers but collectively we were able to come up with some great forward solutions and steps. What struck me the most was that everyone had the heart and focus to care for those who may not be able or willing to articulate their needs and concerns. The greatest change we can make on any issue (not just homelessness or those with special needs) and any area is to make a heart change – to be willing to help, and care, and listen because it is the right thing to do. To show they care through their actions. When you read the story of what President Reagan did you may think of what you might have done in this same situation. The better question though is what I can do today to be more focused on others, and add value to the lives of others. The point really is about observation and focus. Before the President could do what he did, he would have to observe the situation for what it really was. And to make that clear observation, he would need to be thinking about others, not himself, his schedule, his next meeting, or anything else. He would have to see intrinsic value in a child with a severe speech impediment. Only then, with a clear perspective, could he take blame that allowed care to flow to the student. If you want your actions to be focused on others, you must start with that focus in your heart and mind. You can’t fake it. You change your life by changing your heart and focusing on others. It is how God would have us live and the best investment of our lives.