aloha.

What do you think of when you here the word, “aloha?”

Maybe you think white sandy beaches, palm trees, and a warm sea breeze. Or maybe you think of friendly greetings. When hearing the word myself, I often cherish thoughts of friendships I hold close of those I know who hale from the great state of Hawaii. But whatever you tend to think, I am sure it is a word of warmth in one way or another to each of us.

The prefix, alo, means “presence” or “face,” while the suffix, ha, means “breath of life.” Combined, this simple word takes on a humble state and purpose. It becomes a state of being. A heartfelt feeling. In fact, did you know that Hawaii actually has an aloha law? As an islander, you are to live life in an aloha state of mind. Whether you are at work, driving to the beach, or in the grocery store, Hawaiians are to live life peacefully and courteously. In essence, the word has engrained itself as the foundation of an entire culture. It is a word of influence and power.

Do you know of additional words that have had a similar influence or possibly even a greater impact? Do the words we use as individuals have an impact? An impact on our family? Our friends? Our society?

I am sure you can recount the story of creation. Genesis is clear, in the first few sentences, as to how the world was formed. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Each day, God spoke that, which wasn’t, into existence. By a simple word he commanded nothing to become something. Furthermore,”…he upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3, emphasis added). God’s word is the breath and sustaining power of existence!

Judging from this, I think it is reasonable to argue that Scripture clearly emphasizes that words, God’s words, are power. And as imitators of the Word, implications would suggest our words do exhibit some sort of influence or power.

It’s Proverbs 18:21 that says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” The words we choose have implications. Think back on the moments you have spent talking with a family member, a coworker, or friend. You can most likely recall words that have been used to destroy – words of death. On the flip-side, you can probably remember words of encouragement that have been shared with you – words of light. Either way it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34).

And it is with this, that I am challenged. I know my heart is filthy. I know that I need to work on this area in my life. I am by no means perfect. My humanity reminds me of this reality everyday. But the Spirit convicts me that I have been given the power to overcome my fleshly default of speaking murderous words.

As you consider my words, answer me this: what did God ultimately save us from? Moreover, what did he save us for?

This week, you and I will have hundreds of conversations. Are we going to choose to use words that breath life? It is my prayer that we will.

Aloha

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looking for the good life.

It has been way too long since I have last written. But alas, responsibilities and obligations of being an adult seem to give me excuse after excuse. Of course, some such excuses are legitimate. I do work a full time for Cornerstone University, one part time job [at my father’s restaurant and catering companies], and I have been steadily building a film company [Oswald Productions] for two years now. Then of course there is my love for family, friends, church, and volunteer work.

Sometimes my humanity reminds me that “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted” [Isaiah 40:30]. But I press on. Why? Because the Spirit fills me with the promise that “those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will talk and not faint” [Isaiah 40:31]. I have tested this promise often. I have found it to be unquestionably true. And it is within those still moments where the busyness of life seems to be forgotten that the Word of the Lord fills my soul. Lately it has been through the book of Acts.

Acts is an excellent image of the birth and growth of the early church of believers. And just like any other book in Scripture, Acts is filled with comforting promises. But if any heart is open to hearing Jehovah speak, there will be piercing conviction. And it has been through the study of the life of early believers, specifically their fellowship and lifestyle, that my spirit has been convicted recently.

Acts 2:44 that says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Of course this is not a biblical argument for communism [I’ll save the biblical argument against communism and socialism for another date]. Rather, it is about a radical lifestyle. Their belief and devotion to following Christ transcended all else, though specifically in this case, material wealth.

But the picture I have drawn from their lifestyle is that once their spiritual transformation occurred, they as a body of Christ, were of like mind and became utterly different than any surrounding community. And it was this radical lifestyle of truly loving one another that God blessed them with “the favor of all people.” Their healthy community, their odd way of living, attracted others to Christ [Acts 2:47].

Now, this has to beg the question: What would Christianity look like today if the body of Christ reflected that of the early believers who embraced the selfless teachings of Jesus in a radical way? I know it’s not a new question by any means, and in some cases it may seem like an exhausted topic. But until real radical change does take place among believers, we will remain stagnent in growth and outreach. We will continue to be viewed as unauthentic in our faith.

I tend to think specifically of our Christian liberties in this instance. Have we become a community that abuses what is permissible? Over the next few weeks I am hoping to take a deeper look at our freedom in Christ, specifically what we would consider gray areas. But instead of building an argument oriented toward something I may enjoy and currently support, it is my prayer that I look at each topic subjectively to see what the Word of God would wisely encourage.

In what ways have you been actively pursuing what is right to set yourself apart from the world in hopes to attract others to Jesus?

twenty twelve.

I have always had a distaste for the New Year. Not hatred. Just a bittersweet feeling. Irrationally, my mind feels as though I have worked hard to make it to the end of the year…as if the end of the year was a goal to reach. Then the New Year chimes in and I feel as though I have to start all over. And while I may be the only one who feels this way, I do understand that many of us identify the New Year as an opportunity to sieze improvement over the year before. Some resolutions made are superficial, some are unreasonable, and some are never fought for. But yet, there is wisdom in a desire to improve. And it is G.K. Chesterton that makes a wise observation:

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.  It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.  Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions.  Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”

Through my observation of New Year’s resolutions, the main reason many fail at achieving their goal is that they feel overwhelmed.  Long term improvements do not happen over night. Habits need to be developed through a steady pace. Baby steps as it were. Charles Swindoll, whose voice I have always found comforting, noted:

“If you’re running a 26-mile marathon, remember that every mile is run one step at a time. If you are writing a book, do it one page at a time. If you’re trying to master a new language, try it one word at a time. There are 365 days in the average year. Divide any project by 365 and you’ll find that no job is all that intimidating.”

When you begin an project of self improvement, it is always difficult to make it habitual. But if broken down and intermediate goals are developed, the end goal is often easily attained, as it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.

I have not really ever participated in any form of New Year’s resolutions. This year, however, I have been challenged to be a better man. A man with increased wisdom and character. One whose love for Jesus is exemplified through action. I want to be a man who seeks to offer unconditional forgiveness. I want to extend grace just as I have received. I want to offer encouragement to those who are unconfident in themselves. And I want to love those the world deems unloveable.

Have you any New Year’s resolutions? And how do you plan on obtaining the goals you have made?

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