The Associated Press ran a story in May of this year regarding Dutch King Willem-Alexander. The article began by describing the difficulty and hard work related to running a country—or, at least, it seems like it is. So, it makes sense to see royals and world leaders out playing sports or taking up other hobbies to relax.
But King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has a hobby that brings him particularly close to his people—while they're cruising at 30,000 feet.
The king is a qualified pilot who sometimes flies KLM [Royal Dutch Airlines] passenger airliners. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf recently reported that Willem-Alexander would fly two times a month, but will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokker 70 planes he flew are being phased out of service.
The 50-year-old father of three and monarch to 17 million Dutch citizens calls flying a 'hobby' that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground and fully focus on something else.
When he gives announcements, he is not required to identify himself, as he co-pilots. He admits that he is rarely recognized by passengers.
Does the story of a king who ‘lowers’ himself to the status of a commoner and serves others sounds familiar? The example of Willem-Alexander might recall certain words about another king in history who made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:7).
As we enter the Christmas/Advent season, may we not become so distracted that we fail to recognize and remember the King of kings, who entered this world in the form of a babe laid in a manger; Jesus our Savior and Lord.
Keep the faith,
Words are sorely inadequate with what has transpired in Las Vegas, other than to say we need to pray:
Pray that the families who lost loved ones will be surrounded by God's love and peace, and those who can bring comfort.
Pray that those who were wounded will experience a speedy recovery.
Pray God will intervene by his mighty hand and outstretched arm, preventing anything like this from occurring again.
Pray for the churches in the Las Vegas metropolitan area who will have an opportunity to extend God's love and grace through our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Pray for the extended family members of the suspected perpetrator, who are devastated as well.
Keep the faith,
Last week I continued my series out of Romans. I spoke of the importance of leaning into Jesus not matter how bleak the current landscape may appear. Truly, if we trust God - as Abraham and Sara did regarding God's promise of a son - God will be faithful; though it may not be according to our timetable. At the end of the sermon, I quoted an unknown author:
Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for His will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus is the only place of rest.
Keep the faith,
I know it is not new information to any of us that we live at a frenetic pace in today’s world. There is much competing for our attention. The temptation can be to allow these competing distractions to overrun our lives, especially at the expense of our spiritual lives. This can even occur imperceptibly. As a result, I want to strongly encourage us to not compartmentalize our faith. Instead, our faith should permeate and inform every aspect of who we are, especially when we are struggling and have questions.
I love what Max Lucado tells us in his book Fearless regarding the importance of community: “Questions can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding. Yet the cave has no answers. Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.”
Please do not let the tyranny of busyness direct your decision-making, especially as we are now upon summer. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
See you in worship!
Keep the faith,
For each of us who place our faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, we have the assurance of hope that we, too, will experience resurrection life. Presbyterian pastor and author Tim Keller writes concerning the resurrection of Jesus:
“Think of Christ's resurrection as a store receipt. If you're in a department store and you buy some clothes, you should always ask for the receipt. Why? Because if you're still walking around the store a plainclothes security person could stop you and ask, ‘Excuse me, can I look in your bag?’ And if you don't have a receipt you could get in trouble. So, if somebody stops you, you want to be able to hold up your receipt and say, ‘Oh, plainclothes security person, trouble me not because this proves that this has been paid for and I do not have to pay it again.’”
The resurrection is a giant receipt stamped across the pages of history for all people to see; a receipt that allows each of us to know that our future is certain if we believe in Jesus. Romans 10:9 encourages us with these words: “If you confess with your mouth that, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart God raised from the dead, you will be saved.”
Keep the faith,
An article in The Wall Street Journal from 2013 attempted to explain that real love doesn't come from God; instead, love is just a bunch of chemical reactions in your brain. According to the article:
Valentine's Day is here so get ready to send and receive heart-shaped chocolates and cards decorated with big red hearts. But wait a minute! Not so fast. Neuroscience has discovered that the heart has very little to do with romance. For accuracy you should send your main squeeze a Valentine's Day card with the image of a squishy gray blob evocative of a rotting cauliflower—the brain—because that's where romance really resides. And instead of saying "I love you," the knowledgeable lover would say, "Darling, dopamine floods my caudate nucleus" every time I look at you. Love and attraction are all tangled in the convoluted wiring of the brain.
So what is love? Neuroscience tells us that love is a condition involving neurons, neurotransmitters, hormones, receptors, and circuits in your brain. Cognitive science defines passionate love as an "elevated activity in the brain pathways which cause feelings of euphoria, strong motivation, and heightened energy which can induce sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and obsessive thinking about the beloved."
The mistake that this article makes is failing to distinguish love based on doing what is right versus love based on feelings, emotions and biochemical reactions within the brain. True love – God’s love – is a choice. That is, it is choosing to treat someone as if you love them even if your emotions and feelings scream otherwise and the person is undeserving on a human level.
The Apostle Paul defines true godly love this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Keep the faith,
Advent is upon us and Jesus is the reason for the season…. I know what you might be thinking: “Tony, reason for the season is so cliché-ish, tired and overused.” Perhaps. But, simply because we may be overly familiar or overly saturated, does not diminish the phrase’s message: There would be no Christmas/Advent season if God had not become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. There is nothing more profound than this reality.
U2 Rock band lead singer Bono (who claims to follow Jesus, though a bit unconventionally) helps place the incarnation into perspective. After returning home from a long tour, Bono returned to Dublin and attended a Christmas Eve service. At some point in that service, Bono grasped the truth at the heart of the Christmas story: in Jesus, God became a human being. With tears streaming down his face, he realized:
The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself by becoming a child born in poverty … and straw, a child, I just thought, "Wow!" Just the poetry … I saw the genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this … Love needs to find a form, intimacy needs to be whispered … Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. But, perhaps John the Gospel writer does, “The Word became flesh and his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Merry Christmas and keep the faith,
With 2011 behind us and the prospect of a New Year before us, our thoughts turn to resolutions. For many of us, we hope and desire that 2012 will bring happier circumstances. Author, innovation consultant, and speaker Stephen Shapiro, with the help of Opinion Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey, offers the following interesting statistics concerning New Year's resolutions:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
My encouragement to each of us this coming year is to place our hope in the Lord rather in the things of this world:
“…But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Have a blessed New Year!
Keep the faith,
Originally from Huntington Beach, CA, Tony received his Bachelor's degree in religion from USC and his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Talbot School of Theology. Tony loves spending time with his wife, Sheri, and their two sons and daughter (Bryce, Braden, and Brooke); cheering for the USC Trojan football team; and playing tennis.