Crossing Paths Contest!

I’m very excited to announce the first ever Crossing Paths giveaway contest! Details are coming this Friday. I’ll give you a few hints to whet your appetite. 

First, to qualify, you need to be a member of the Crossing Paths Facebook fan page.

Next, you must be available the evening of Saturday April 10, 2010. 

Last, you must enjoy a taste for luxury.

Details are coming in the Photo Phriday post this week! If you’re not already a member of the Facebook fan page, join now! If you are, but your friends aren’t yet, they still have time to qualify for the fun! 

Stay tuned! 

(I’ve always wanted to say that)

Holding Your Pastor To A Higher Standard

You’ve seen them. You’ve seen the bracelets, license plate frames, t-shirts, hats. WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? I used to sport the bracelets. They were cool and colorful, and made a statement about the standard by which we are to live. But then it became trendy. It became like the yellow LiveStrong wristbands which were very cool, and a very good cause. But then it simply became a fad.

While I think the idea of keeping Jesus in our consciousness as we go about our daily activities is a good thing, I also think that we’re conveniently setting ourselves up for excusing failure. In other words, Jesus was perfect. I am not. How can I live up to His standards? Why try? It’s futile. I’m not going to kill anyone or knock off a liquor store. But that extra dollar the clerk gave me when giving me change at the grocery store? Well, I’ll tithe on it. Praise God!

Here’s a little litmus test that I think is pretty effective. If you found out your pastor was involved in the types of activities you were keeping secret, would it diminish your respect for him? The other day I wrote about members of a church singles group who were carrying on in a bar. Some find my attitude about such behavior as judgmental. Some would defend this behavior as OK in light of the fact that they go to church regularly. They might even be in some kind of church leadership. But then I ask, if you walked into that bar and found your pastor there behaving exactly as you were, would it bother you? Do you hold your pastor to a higher standard than the one you live by?

I grew up Catholic. When I was 13, I was at a youth retreat. The boys were in one dorm, and the girls in another. I don’t know about the girls, but when you get 20-30 boys in a dorm at night with no adult supervision, you can expect all kinds of craziness. At one point, the priest came rushing into our room shouting at us, “what the hell is going on in here?” You could have heard a pin drop. He said hell, and not in the context you might expect.

When someone’s vocation is as a church leader, we definitely hold them to a higher standard. It’s human nature. But is it right? They’re human, just as we are. We shouldn’t put them on a pedestal, but neither should we diminish their responsibility to live in accordance to the high call of Christ. Instead, we should elevate our game so that we perform at a higher level. We should live at the level we expect and require of our church leaders. I am no less called to behave appropriately and glorify God in my life just because I’m not a pastor.

I hope you have a pastor who is a positive example to follow. If not, find a church where you have such a leader. But his walk cannot compensate for yours. You are still responsible to live according to the very same bible as Billy Graham. You may not be a pastor of a church, but you are every bit the same example to which people look in defining Christian behavior. 

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1

You Be The Judge

If I were a gambling man, I would have put money down on getting at least one response to yesterday’s post accusing me of judging others. Sure enough, the obligatory warning was given. If you missed yesterday’s post and the comment to which I’m referring, you can check it out here.

For whatever reasons, for which I’m sure you already have theories, people get really touchy when you dare to take a stand about certain behaviors. You know what? I’m OK with that. There was a time when I was more concerned about everyone agreeing with me. Now I’m more concerned with having God’s approval. When I shared the story of a group of people from a local church getting their drink on, I knew there was going to be an invisible line dividing those who disagree from those who share my feelings. The common go-to response to a post such as yesterday’s is the “do not judge” refrain. The warning was taken from Matthew 7, also referring to the well-used “speck” and “plank” in the eye.

To those who fall back on such an argument, I want to point out that we judge practically every day. If you find yourself breaking out into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the word judge, let me translate it into the more comfortable Christianese word, discern. We are to exercise judgment all the time. That doesn’t mean you are to look down your nose with a pious heart at someone else. But we have to use discernment. Proverbs 3:21-23 says we must hold tightly to wisdom and discretion. You have to understand the difference between this and judging one’s salvation, or criticizing someone else while justifying your own sin. I know it’s the same word in English, but different meanings in different contexts.

If you’re a single female and someone knocks on your door after dark, do you just fling the door open without even looking through the peep hole? Are there certain parts of town you avoid late at night? Do you have any particular standards when deciding whether or not you want to go out on a date with someone, and what activities to which you’ll agree?

I hope the answer to these questions is “yes”. If so, you are exercising wisdom and discretion. If you see people participating in an activity which would damage your character and reputation as a Christian, you are wise to separate yourself from them.

It is true we are not to criticize others if we do not hold ourselves to at least the same standard. We do become hypocrites if we criticize others for their sin when we’ve got a truckload of our own that we’re ignoring. Yesterday’s post clearly makes this disctinction.

If you read yesterday’s post and your instinctive reaction was to defend yourself by dismissing the message and turning it around on the messenger, you need to allow yourself to be held accountable. You better believe I’ve got a lot of qualified people in my life who I respect who are free to get in my face if my actions are inconsistent with the beliefs I profess. My stable of close friends has a variety of people in it. No matter their age, gender or background, they share one distinctive characteristic. They each have qualities I admire and want to have in my own life.   

To close, I want to say something to two types of people. 

First, if you know where your weaknesses lie, (we all know where we are vulnerable), and you find yourself with a person or group of people who dismiss its sin value, find a different set of friends. It’s that simple. You need to be around people who elevate your game.

Second, if you know a person or group whose activities and practices are inconsistent with the principles of an authentic Christian life, study and put into practice Galatians 6:1-7. We are to hold one another accountable. We are expected to bear one another’s burdens. 

Finally, don’t be afraid of whether or not people will approve. Instead, strive to please God.

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
 10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10

Christians And Bars

I have noticed a trend among many of my Christian peers which really disturbs me. I’ll share with you a story of an experience I had last year, and then get on with my point.

One Friday afternoon, I was invited by a couple very good friends of mine to join them and a larger group of people they knew from a church singles group. We were meeting that evening at a Mexican restaurant. I love good Mexican food, so I decided to join my friends. I figured we would be sitting at a long table and enjoy a good meal. Much to my surprise, I got there, and everyone was in the bar. OK, maybe they’re in there waiting for said long table to be ready. There were TVs in there, so maybe it was just an easy place for a large group to hang out while waiting. As it turned out, nobody but my two friends and I were there for the food. The margaritas were flowing and the tequila was taking its affect. At one point, one of the guys was going around the group asking who wanted to do shots with him. As they got louder, the other patrons were noticeably annoyed by the conduct of the church group. Once the festivities at the bar were concluded, the group made its way across the street to a nightclub for dancing, and presumably more drinks. My friends and I, instead, decided to finally have our Mexican dinner with some great conversation.

This story is a sad, and all-too-common example of what I’m seeing among many of my Christian peers these days. I see so many who treat their relationship with God like a day at work. When they’re in church, like the office, they do their duty. They sing the songs, they nod in agreement with the sermon, and they bow their heads properly when they pray. But when quitting time comes, it’s off to the party! We hear their profanity. We see their attitude towards others. There is nothing that distinguishes them as Christians when they’re “off duty”. Nothing identifies them as people who have been transformed by their relationship with Christ.

When Christians behave badly, the world notices. In fact, the world is quick to point it out to us. They call us hypocrites. We must understand the world wants us to be different. The insults that come our way when we fail is because we preach that we’re different, but act the same. The world needs us to be different. We should stand out in a crowd. How can we tell people of God’s life-changing love for us if we haven’t changed? If someone was in that bar because they were struggling with their circumstances, how could someone have entered into a conversation to tell them of God’s transforming love while gulping down shots?  How can we expect others to want what we have if we’re doing the exact same things they’re doing? 

The truth is, at one time or another, we all have been guilty of justifying sin in our lives. We have no problem pointing our finger and words of disgust at sin with which we have no struggle, while giving safe haven to some other destructive behavior in our own lives.

If you like a glass of wine with dinner, no problem. If you like to listen to music and dance, that’s nice. But if you have become a chameleon, simply blending into whatever setting you’re in, it’s time to do something about it. If you’re trying to do a balancing act between worlds, you cannot and will not experience the full benefits God intends for you. Submit yourself, truly, to God. He will not only give you a taste for His will and desires, but He will give you a distaste for the things which are harmful and unfruitful.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 12:2


Saturday Rerun: July 13, 2008

This week’s rerun was inspired after a Sunday morning experience in San Jose, CA. As I re-read this post in considering it as a rerun, the mental and spiritual movie began to play itself over in my head. I hope this touches you in some small way, as it touched me in a very profound one.

Fingerprints of God

This morning in church, I sang the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Fingerprints of God. It’s a very good song which is, in essence, a contemporary view of Psalm 139. I’ll post a video below so you can hear it, in case you aren’t familiar with it.

Because the song was embedded toward the end of the sermon, I sat on the platform so I could make a relatively smooth move to the microphone without being too much of a distraction to the congregation. From my vantage point during the message, I could only see about 1/3 of the congregation during the first service. In my absolute line of sight was a little girl, all of about 6 or 7 years old, confined to a wheelchair. It was plain to see that it wasn’t a broken leg or something temporary. She is permanently and devastatingly disabled. As I looked out to her, even 20 minutes before we’d get to the song, my heart was deeply touched as I ran the lyrics through in my head while considering this sight.

My emotions were so jarred by the combination of the powerful lyrics of the song and the plight of this young lady that I barely made it through the song. I don’t know if she heard a single word, but I sang that song to that girl with everything I had in me. Following the song, I left the platform, made my way around the back to make sure I was awaiting this young lady and her family as they left the sanctuary following the service. I had the pleasure of meeting little Hannah and her family. She’s a precious little thing, and I will never forget her.

The world will look at Hannah all her life and see someone who is flawed, even damaged. But God created her, and He just doesn’t make mistakes. Little Hannah touched my heart in a very powerful way today, and I’ll never forget her. I complain about so many trivial things, and little Hannah had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen as I talked to her and told her how pretty she is. She is a masterpiece.

Encouraging The Encourager

I’d like to think of myself as an encourager. I really like thinking positively. It’s very easy for me to do for you, but it can be a chore sometimes to think positively for myself. But I’ve really been working on that. Things don’t always go the way I’d like them to, but I still know I’m blessed. I have many things for which to be thankful, even on bad days.

I’ve been writing about joy. I’ve been writing about being strong and courageous. I’ve been writing about daring to leave the comfort of the familiar for the unknown treasures of faith. I believe all those things passionately. But the other night, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I found myself frustrated about something which is still an area of vulnerability in my heart. 

Late that night, just before going to bed, I posted on my Facebook page that I was feeling a bit down. I even shared that it’s sometimes a significant challenge to practice what you preach. Crossing Paths is undergoing some significant growth in terms of audience in recent weeks. Because of this, I have a more significant responsibility to walk the talk. If I’m going to talk about faith, joy, courage, strength and such, I can pretty much guarantee I’m going to soon face challenges in those very topics. That’s just the way it works in ministry. It’s not enough to say these things. You have to live them.

I had a very special experience when I dared to be honest about my feelings of discouragement on Facebook. I was hesitant to admit that despite trying to be Mr. Encourager, I sometimes need to be encouraged. But when I woke up the following morning after my late night “confession”, I found these messages waiting for me from friends:

  •  “The good thing about living in Christ is we don’t do this alone! Hang strong in Him!”
  •  “You are hereby granted grace and mercy, Corey, so that you don’t have to struggle to ‘practice what you preach’, but can rest in the security of your relationship…knowing that you are loved and accepted regardless of ability to perform. then, out of that love and peace and rest, you will find the strength to succeed.”
  • “I know what you mean my friend, dealing with problems and problem people can suck the life out of your joy. It is so easy to fill the void with anger and frustration. I believe that is why God surrounds us with good people and his love. With His and their support we will get out of the valleys. Stay strong and in faith, and joy will come to you. Have a blessed day!” 
  • Matching Calamity and Serenity is only acheived through belief that I will be taken care of . NO MATTER WHAT…”
  • “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that
    all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12:46 (New Living Translation)”
  • “This too shall pass… Hang in there!”
  • “I definitely can empathize with you, Corey. When I feel that way, I keep chanting that famous phrase from Psalm 30:5 – “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I pray that a sunny morning comes your way soon.”

Most of the friends who rallied to offer me encouragement are people I haven’t seen in over 20 years. With the exception of two of the encouragers, who are brothers, these people don’t even know each other. These messages came from people I really didn’t expect. It was a real blessing to find these messages. They were special because they weren’t the tried and true boilerplate responses. I found myself strengthened and lifted up with each message.

I have always said that I think you can tell a lot about a person by the quality of friends in their lives. I can honestly say that I have had the blessing of knowing some truly incredible people in my life, and I’m humbled. They have definitely raised my game. 

Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful blessing and necessity of great friends. If we’re not yet friends, please feel free to add me as your friend on Facebook. As iron sharpens iron, we can work together to bring out our very best. 

Comfort and Destiny

Yesterday I referred to the bridge that connects the “lands” of Comfort and Destiny. Comfort can be a rather misleading term. More often than not, the land of comfort isn’t comfortable at all. More accurately, it’s simply familiar. How many times have you heard stories of women who were abused by their husbands or boyfriends, but chose to stay with them? They don’t stay because they’re comfortable. They stay because their afraid of being alone and starting over. They’re afraid that if they make a change, they will face greater danger. So they opt for familiar.

That is an extreme, but common example. In fact, we have all been there. We’ve all stayed in relationships of some kind that were toxic to us. Whether it was a friend we allowed to influence us in ways that were not healthy, or a job that was so negative and stressful that it literally affected our physical and emotional health. We’ve all experienced times when we chose the familiar over the unknown.

Some of you know the story of why I moved from San Jose to Rocklin. In short, I was standing face to face with exactly what I’ve been talking about. The choice to remain comfortable, or to chase my destiny. In the comfortable, I knew exactly what next year was going to be like. It was going to be just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I hadn’t been growing. But God heard my prayers about not wanting to be the same. I wanted to grow. I needed to grow. Rocklin wasn’t and isn’t my destiny. Being willing to step out of what was comfortable forced me to explore my own potential and gifts. After 18 months, I believe I am very different from who I was before. It wasn’t about leaving San Jose. Nothing bad was happening there. I needed to prove to myself, and to God, that I was serious. I needed to take an extreme step of faith to make an extreme step of growth. My destiny isn’t a place on a map. It’s my character. It’s my integrity. It’s my maturity. It’s in using the tools God gave me to make a difference wherever I am.

If you find yourself facing the choice of comfort or destiny, of the familiar versus the unknown potential you have in Christ, I urge you to go for it. Choose your destiny in Christ! It takes faith. Intense faith. But it brings tremendous liberty. And liberty is in increasingly short supply these days.

Go for it!

More Thoughts About Bridges

Yesterday I wrote a few thoughts about bridges, since I seem to have developed a recent interest in them as photographic subjects. My previous post on bridges focused on some human parallels to bridges regarding our foundations being strong and rooted deeply.

Today, I want to discuss the fear factor of bridges. Recently, I took some pictures of California’s tallest bridge, the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge. It stands 730 feet above the rocky riverbed below. It is not a terribly wide bridge, and can be a bit intimidating psychologically. In fact, a friend of mine commented on Facebook that she’s never crossed it due to fear. If you’re scared of heights, I can totally understand. 

How many of us are standing at a precipice? We’ve reached the edge of the land of Comfort, looking across to the other side, the land of Destiny. But there is a rather intimidating chasm between Comfort and Destiny. It is inevitable that as we travel, we will come to the edge of ourselves. We will come face to face with our limitations and previous experience. In order to further our personal development, we must be willing to cross that bridge designed to carry us across the impassable terrain.

It can be quite scary at times. The key is to focus not on our fears, but on our goal. Keep your eyes forward. It’s a simple fact of human nature. Where your eyes are fixed, that’s where you’re going to go. If you get caught looking over the side, you’re going to drift in that direction. 

Today, you’re standing on the cliff of where you’ve always been, across to where you need to be. God has given you an insatiable appetite to grow and explore. Your fear of change must be overwhelmed by your refusal to remain the same. Fix your eyes on God. Fix your eyes on His promises. Fix your eyes on His word. Once you cross that bridge, you will never be the same!

A Few Thoughts About Bridges

I wouldn’t expect you to notice, but many of the most recent pictures I’ve taken in the past couple months have been of bridges. There has been no explicit reason why. I mean, it’s not like I’ve had this fascination of bridges that dates back to childhood or anything. I’m not an engineer who marvels at their construction. But I do see a trend. 

When I started thinking of bridges, I couldn’t help but see some human and spiritual truths about them. For instance, a bridge’s integrity is determined by how strong it’s foundation is. Isn’t the same true for us as humans? How many high profile people have we seen recently who have failed in the area of integrity? How many of us have failed in our integrity at times? When that has happened, what did we need to do in order to begin to put life back together? In order to find stability, we must be rooted in something stronger than ourselves.

In order for a bridge to be of any use, it must be able to withstand a heavy load. No one is going to trust a rickety bridge. If I have any aspirations to be of service to others, I have to be strong. Bridges are often made of the strongest materials, such as cement and steel. But it all comes down to the foundation. It doesn’t matter what I’m made of if my personal foundation is an inch deep in sand. My strength can only be found in God. He must be my foundation.

I want to be a bridge. I want to be trusted by friends and strangers alike that I can see them safely from where they are to where they want to go. I want to bridge the gap that leads people to safety in their lives. 

The ultimate bridge is the cross of Christ. As we approach Easter, I’m reminded that what happened on the cross provided us safe passage from the wages of sin to eternal life. What greater bridge has ever been built?