When it is Hard to Give Thanks

It’s almost Thanksgiving! This usually means good food (hot pot if you are Chinese), family, friends coming back, more food, movie vegging during days off, and more food. Plus Christmas is around the corner and that means more days off. I was up in Idyllwild last weekend and there was some early snowfall action; looks like it’ll be a good snowboarding season.

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not sure who made this little guy

It’s a time where we are supposed to count our blessings and make a list of all the things we are thankful for. But what if it’s not so easy to give thanks? Maybe things are hard financially or someone lost a job. Perhaps you have lost a loved one, or this time reminds you of a loss in the past. Sometimes it is hard to give thanks, even though we know we have many things to be thankful for.

I think sometimes well-meaning Christians do more harm when we “look on the bright side” that in Christ we have eternal life, love, peace, etc and try to ignore the very real suffering that one is experiencing. While it is true that our struggles here are “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” (Romans 8:18) and our “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory” (2 Cor 4:17), God does not call us to deceive ourselves and stuff away how we really feel.

I’ll share more about this during our Thanksgiving program, but for now, if you are in that place, I hope you can find encouragement in the psalms. When I read the honest expressions of the psalmists, I am reminded that our sadness, anger, and even doubts can exist side-by-side with our faith in God, and we can bring all of that to God.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13

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Lessons From the Power Rangers

powerrangersDo you remember the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers? It was a really popular TV Show in the early 90s that aired right after school so I watched it all the time in junior high. If you don’t know, the premise is that in the first season, astronauts accidently free an evil alien Rita who was locked away by a good alien Zordon. Now that Rita is free, she sets her eyes on conquering earth.

Well unfortunately, Zordon, in the process of defeating Rita, gets trapped in a time warp, so he has to find a team to defend the earth. So he recruits 5 teenagers and gives them the ability to morph into the Power Rangers to fight Rita’s forces.

When they morph into the Power Rangers, they become superheroes; they are faster, stronger, and have combat skills. But their real power is that they can each summon and control these giant robots called Zords. But the real, real power is that these Zords can then come together to form the Megazord, a gigantic fighting machine.

megazordI went back and watched a couple episodes recently and alas it was not as enjoyable as it used to be. It’s super corny and every episode is the same. Rita wants to conquer earth so she sends one of her monsters that she creates. The monster wrecks havoc in the city, and the Power Rangers are summoned. They fight the monster but can’t defeat it because Rita magically makes it grow really really big. And so the Power Rangers call on their Zords and together become the Megazord. And once the Megazord is assembled, it’s over. He has the same finishing move every episode: the sword slash. And that’s pretty much every single episode.

So you can pretty much sum up the Power Rangers as a diverse group of people chosen by a higher power and given abilities that are useful, but by themselves are inadequate. And it is not until they come together that something more glorious and powerful is manifested for the purposes of good.

This may be a bit of a ridiculous analogy, but that’s kind of how Paul envisions the church. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

The Bible teaches that each believer has been given at least one spiritual gift for the purposes of building up the church body, and it is when all believers are actively using their gift that God is more fully manifested in our midst. But the sad reality is that most churches follow the 20-80 rule: 20% of the church does 80% of the work, and many Christians simply show up and warm the seats (there are many reasons for this, sometimes the church structure hinders the process of everyone getting involved).

Can you imagine what the Megazord would look like if one of the Rangers sat out because he thought his Zord was lame? Or if another Ranger thought she could just do it on her own and didn’t need the rest of the team? There would be no full manifestation of the glory and power of the Megazord.

failmegazord

And in the same way, there is not the manifestation of God in many of our churches because people are sitting out, and some are doing it on their own. Paul again writes in Romans 12:4-5, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

We need to realize that in God’s design, not one person or a few people have all the gifts. He has given to the entire body so that together, we may all grow in unity into the full knowledge of Christ. Obviously our God is not locked in a time warp and so He needs us to carry out His purposes. He has power to accomplish anything He desires, yet by His grace, allows us and empowers us to participate with Him in His kingdom plan.

And yes, I illustrated this post myself.

How has God gifted you to serve in His church body?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need Health Insurance?

Do you or your family member need to buy health insurance? As you know, the Obamacare is being implemented, and one new element is the insurance market exchange. People without insurance now have the ability to shop for insurance through these exchanges and depending on how much you make, you may qualify for subsidies on your insurance premium.

If you live in California, this is the insurance exchange for California that can walk you through the process: https://www.coveredca.com/.  There’s a lot of good infomation on that site as well so if you are in need of insurance, or you know someone who does, take some time to go over it. There’s a calculator that will give you an estimate of your premiums based on your household size and income. Please share!

By the way, Amazon finally has the book in stock, woot!

 

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

O’Connor, A. (2013, November 3). Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/herbal-supplements-are-often-not-what-they-seem.html?_r=1&

This is a bit of a scary introduction to an overivew of a recently published study on the composition of herbal products. This study supports a lot of the fears that most physicians have when it comes to over-the-counter medications and suppletments.

Not that I am against herbal medications since many of the medicines we rely on today are derived from plants. Even FDA approved medications have its dangers and often biases exists in how existing research is conducted. But, the article does highlight the lack of oversight and regulation in the herbal supplement business.

So, if you are taking supplements (or know people who do), please bring them to your next doctor’s visit. Many people forget to include over-the-counter medications on their med list, and unfortunately there are many interactions that exist between prescription drugs and these supplements.