"Relationship isn't just meeting someone, but knowing someone!”

Hello all,

At LIFT, the preaching series the last months has been on the theme; “It’s about RELATIONSHIP, not about RELIGION”.  Bedros gave the message this past Sunday and wonderfully shared how a true relationship with God, through Jesus, is the point and purpose in life, not just religion or religious works and actions, whether Christian or other world religions……….it’s a about a relationship with God!  As LIFT is so multinational in our makeup, it’s wonderful to hear Biblical truths being taught through various cultural insights and perspectives.  Bedros is Armenian, but raised in Lebanon, now a Swiss national who has been in Switzlerland for about 20 years.  Hearing about muslim “religious works” from him with his Middle Eastern upbringing is very different and real versus reading about it.  As he shifted from various religious world religions and focused back to Christianity as a “religion” he wonderfully turned the focus off of religion and onto a relationship with God to what real faith is all about.  He even used an illustration including my encounter with a famous movie star from a year ago when I happened to run into George Clooney in Geneva while on business there, even getting a snap of his smiley whites (his teeth) on my cell phone.  The point is, that although I had seen and ran into him, I don’t have a relationship (or friendship) with him, nor know him.  Bedros nicely turned this around for us to reflect that although many may have a picture of God in our mind (not our phone) that just a picture of seeing Him, isn’t the same as knowing Him, and sharing life with Him, or including Him in our life. 

As I reflected on this and now put it into my own words, I think that often people only see a picture of God and miss out on walking with God and journeying with Him in life.  Like I was running around last September with my mobile phone and jokingly saying, “Hey, look who I met in Geneva”, it was with a bit of sarcasm and obvious that I didn’t really know George Clooney, I just was able to be in the right place to snap his photo.  (Maybe I shouldn’t have taken the picture, but reached out and touched his arm?  Nah, I’m not a female…..and the photo was good for some laughs afterwards!)   Often, people only see or hear about religion(s) and even “try them out” for awhile, but don’t take the opportunity to get to know the real God of the Universe.   How can you get to know God?  Go to church?  Light a candle?  Say a prayer or walk an old lady across the street (or any other good deeds)?  Although those things might not be bad things in themselves, but these religions works too often become the focus and end point in themselves (religion) and miss the real point on personally knowing God and His love for you and desire for you to include Him in your life.  Below, I’m attaching my original LIFT update from 2008 regarding the Clooney encounter which then gives insight to when I met and entered a relationship with Jesus. 

———————from Sept. 7th, 2008—————————-

I saw George Clooney, who cares?

Hello All,

It’s true, last night while in Geneva for a work function our Int’l Marketing team was touring the old city and while we were passing the Reformed Museum someone from our group asked why about 50+ people were hanging around the entrance.  It just so happened that George Clooney, Mr. Hollywood himself, was inside finishing a speech about his support of a US president candidate and was supposedly going to exit the building soon to go 20 meters across the alley into another building for his dinner event where $10,000 (or 11,000 CHF) can get you dinner in the same room with George. I’ll admit, I couldn’t help myself and since there wasn’t a massive huge crowd, I thought I’d hang out to see if he really was to walk by.  (Of course, 5 or 6 ladies from my company’s group of 15 decided to pass on the final few minutes of our guided tour as well in hopes of seeing George!)  Sure enough, 10 minutes later George walked by (with a little bit of pushing around between the security and the now 100+ people) and my strategic decision to stand right next to the door where he was going to, instead of coming from allowed me a good glimpse and a not so good picture on my cell phone of this Hollywood star.  In the end, I was close enough to have reached out and touched (which I chose not to) a huge Hollywood star. Five minutes later he was at his dinner, I was at mine and most likely we will never cross paths again………so who cares?  Really, it’s not like I got to know him or started a friendship, or even had eye contact for that matter.  So clearly he doesn’t care and I really don’t either. 

But there was a time, when I was a teen when I had the amazing opportunity to meet another famous star! At that cross road I not only crossed paths in seeing this famous star, but actually got to meet him and start a friendship and relationship that is lasting a lifetime and will even continue for eternity.  Yes, this “Star” was, is and always will be the biggest Name of all time in the biggest true movie of reality……the Star of stars, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ!  At that life changing encounter, Jesus didn’t sign a piece of paper with his autograph, nor stop for a photo, He instead signed my heart with His Blood as the ink and asked me to come with Him on a journey in which He will lead, guide and provide.  I don’t need a photo to remember Him by because He is always there for me and I can look up and see Him in my life, anytime!

Jesus said in Mark 8:34-37, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

I’ll never forget that encounter when I first saw Jesus, when He said to come and follow Him!  George Clooney….who cares?  Jesus Christ…..  I care and so does Jesus, and so should you!

—————

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you don’t already know the most famous person to have ever walked the planet, I pray you meet Him yourself personally.  Not just a digital image on your phone, not just an occasional visit in a church, not just lighting a candle or doing a good work, but actually meeting and having a real relationship with Him in your life!  Walking, talking, reading His letters to you, laughing, crying and sometimes just holding His Hand when words can’t express what’s on your heart! Yes, a relationship with God is what He desires from you, not your acts of religion! 

In His grip and grace,

Corey

“Being a Father”

Hello all,

First of all, I need to admit that so far in 2009 my keeping up with these LIFT updates has been rather sporadic (irregular) and not quite the weekly send out of communication and encouragement to you about LIFT and faith that is used to be.  So, although I apologize for not being so consistent, I can also ensure you (which is also the underlying message of this update) that my personal priorities in faith, life, family, ministry and work commitments are in order.  This Sunday is Father’s Day and this year especially, with now having 3 children (since the birth of our daughter Sarah on the last day of 2008), it’s been a busy year for me…….but it’s also been beyond rewarding in regards to living my worship of Jesus, and I have valued and prioritized being a father more than keeping up with updates! Not doing the updates regularly has been tough for me as I perhaps “need” these updates more than you (kinda like therapy-lol) and I wish I was able to have sent out updates more consistently. (I have three partial updates that never made it out of my journal file.), But really, I have loved the whole dynamic of starting over with diapers and sleepless night those first three of months of 2009 and definitely enjoyed watching Livia and Silas pour out their older brother and sister love to their baby sister as well.  Of course, if I even think of writing anything implying “my” sleepless nights, it’s of course Tanya, my wife (and best friend in life) who obviously was/is the one who has wonderfully carried the family transition mode the most and truly lived the sleeplessness at another level that I did.

All that being said, men, especially those of you who are fathers out there, may you be blessed and LIFT-ed up by our Lord in Heaven for all you do for your wives and children!  I prayed for you today in particular and ask for anyone reading this to take a moment to pray for their father, husband, daddy, step-father, son, brother, in law(s), grand- or great-grandson that happen to be a man out there and somehow connect to you in their lives.  Go ahead…..right now take a moment and pray for your father and the men who are fathers that you are connected to in some way.  Too cool.  There are prayers of praises and encouragement.  There are prayers of asking for strength in health issues.  There are prayers of appreciation and thankfulness for such fathers.  And in reality for some, there are a few tough issues going through your heads as you may have a broken relationship or hurting relationship with your father, son, brother, grandfather, etc, etc in your life.  I just took a moment in particular to pray for those that have tough father relationship issues as well and/or those that may have never known their father.  Forgiveness is desperately needed in life’s relationships, for all and on both sides of the a broken relationship, meaning even for the one who forgives the other from their heart, even if the other doesn’t respond accordingly.   Praise God, Our Father in Heaven that He is a father who loves each and every one of us! 

So for this Father’s Day, reach out to your father and tell him you prayed for him this week and honor him in some way! 

Men that are fathers, and men that may some day be fathers, I am including below a devotion I read last week regarding being a father and our main goal in life as a father: “To Help Our Children Know God”!  As I read this the first time, a few points grabbed my attention and clearly reminded me what being a real father is all about.  I just took a moment to pray again for you and for me, but this time my prayer isn’t about this Sunday on Father’s Day in 2009, it’s in regards to next year on Father’s Day in 2010!  I not only encourage you, but I challenge you (yes, a challenge from me to you, man to man!) that over the next year, your children will grow closer in knowing God, by you becoming stronger in living your faith in a more Godly manner!  I’m in it as well, please pray for me too!  Maybe we can call this the Father’s Day liveitandgiveit 2010 Challenge. 

Read on……and go be a daddy! 
 
Fathers: Help Your Children Know God
(by Rick Warren)

“I showed what You are like to those You gave Me from the world. They belonged to You, and You gave them to Me” (John 17:6 NCV).

The world is full of sons and daughters who desperately need a father who is a spiritual leader. Is it possible your kids are among them? You can become a spiritual leader to your children by developing the characteristics that we see in Jesus as He taught His disciples for three years.

Even if you are not a father, or a mother, you will be able to lead others into the heart of God by following the example of Jesus.

First, Jesus helped the disciples to know God.
Dads, this is your number one responsibility as a father. You need to help your children get to know God because eternity hangs in the balance: life or death, heaven or hell. It is your job to help make sure your kids are introduced to God.
Look at what Jesus says: “They belonged to you.” He’s acknowledging that the disciples belonged to God; and reminding us that we don’t own our kids. They belong to God. He loans them to us for a period of time in which He wants you to parent them. Parenting, like all forms of leadership, is really about stewardship. You learn to say, “God, I am the steward of these children, whom You put into my care, and I will do what You need me to do to help them achieve their purpose.”
Notice Jesus then says, “I showed what You were like to those You gave Me.” Jesus doesn’t say, “I preached. I sermonized. I pontificated. I lectured so the disciples would know you.” He says, “I showed.” He led by example. This is one of the most sobering truths about being a parent. For right or wrong, for good or bad, whether you like it or not, your children’s idea of God is going to be largely determined by the kind of father you are. You may not like that. I may not like that, but it’s the truth.

If you are an impatient and demanding father, they’re going to think God is impatient and demanding. If you are distant and detached and never have time for your kids, they’re going to think God is distant and detached from them. If you are inconsistent and unreliable, if you break your promises, they’re going to think their heavenly Father is inconsistent and unreliable and breaks His promises.

What i s God really like?
• God is caring.
• God is close and aware of the details.
• God is consistent.
• God is competent.

If my kids are going to grow up knowing God is caring, close, consistent, and competent, then I must be caring, close, consistent, and competent. I must care about my kids enough to show them what God is like and show how they can become like Christ.

So fathers, time to go live it and give it for your kids! …..and others!  It’s an honor to be a father myself and to journey in life and faith with others like you!

In His grip and grace,  
Corey

“Growing FAMILY! Part 2”- Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family

Hello again from Greenville, South Carolina,

Thanks for the many words (e-mails) of encouragement and congratulations regarding our lil’ Sarah Christiana and our growing FAMILY! I don’t think it was a coincidence that after sending last week’s LIFT update out on Sunday, that on Monday, the following devotion was in my in-box.

———————————————————
Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family
(a Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotion by Rick Warren)
See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are! 1 John 3:1 (NLT)

*** *** *** ***
You were formed for God’s family.
God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory…” (Hebrews 2:10 NCV).
God wants a family, and he created you to be a part of it. This is one of God’s purposes for your life, which he planned before you were born. The entire Bible is the story of God building a family who will love him, honor him, and reign with him forever.
His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT).
Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is God’s relationship to himself. It’s the perfect pattern for relational harmony and we should study its implications.
God already exists in loving relationship to himself so he’s never been lonely. He didn’t need a family. he desired one, so he devised a plan to create us, bring us into his family, and share with us all he has.
This gives God great pleasure.
————————————————-
Yes, we are “formed for God’s family”, even via adoption!!

His grip and grace,

Corey

“Growing FAMILY!”

Hello All (from Greenville, South Carolina- USA),

Sorry for missing a few updates since 2009 started, but at least I have a good excuse! As most of of you know, our family has been blessed with the birth of our daughter Sarah Christiana who was born on December 31st 2008. On one hand, her birth and placement into our family is the wonderful blessing and somewhat completion of an amazing journey of faith and adoption. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of the overall faith journey in her life and our life as the Best family of five now.

Although, I am a future thinker, I just have to stop and look back and praise God for what He’s done for our family in blessing us with Sarah and the beautiful story that He is writing into her and our lives while at the same time also looking forward to life ahead! After having Livia and Silas and not being able to have more children ourselves, Tanya and I began to seriously discuss adoption in 2007 and during our Christmas break in the US last year (07 into 08) the Lord confirmed in our hearts (with the wonderful encouragement and real life example of my brother and his wife who had also adopted a newborn while already having older siblings) that adoption was an open door for us to walk through in faith.

Just before our return to Switzerland we met with a Christian adoption agency there in South Carolina. January and February of last year were a couple of months of prayerful consideration as a family with Livia and Silas definitely part of the overall conversation. By March, we chose to go with God in faith to grow our family through adoption. A couple full months of paperwork (a lot of paperwork) including a home study visit from a social worker and we were approved, but then in the waiting phase of the agency working to match a birthmother with our family. Obviously for us, this “matchmaking” process had little to do with the agency and everything to do with God working through the circumstances in that before Sarah was born and while she was still in her mother’s womb, He already knew her name and this is/was true for all of us.

Like any journey, there has been numerous experiences along the way, too many to note, but one special encounter was in July, while we were in the UK visiting my granny’s roots at the farm she was raised on. In the very room that my granny used to sleep in as a child (and the same room my mother stayed in while in 1st grade) we had a special first conversation with a woman named Christian. For me, a touching point of paths of my family past and family future crossing while looking out the window across that special family farm and speaking to the woman possibly carrying our future daughter. Sarah’s middle name is Christiana, intentional to carry a full meaning of the heritage of her birthmother’s name and the meaning of her adoptive parent’s spiritual heritage; both packed with love and giving life to Sarah’s own journey! Although we didn’t overly share too many details along the way this past year, we thank you – our extended family that we share life and faith with – for the love, prayers and support! We still have a few details to work out ahead, including an expedited passport for Sarah so we can return home to Switzerland, but clearly we are so thankful and praise the Lord for growing our family in such an incredible way. May Sarah’s birthmother be blessed for her incredible “offering” of love and life, an act of love we will honor and cherish!

His grip and grace,

Corey

“Include Jesus!”

Hello All,

I’m not one who’s ever really done well in making a new year’s resolution list and sticking to it……religiously! Too often by January 9th,(ok, honestly it’s probably more like the 5th) I’ve already broken my commitment to eat better or exercise more anyways and then feel guilty that I didn’t live up to the list in the first place.  But at the same time, I am one who is usually consistent in living my life with passion and desire for the Lord’s purposes, although in ways that are quite practically and applicable for everyday normal life circumstances.   In the end, my “continued” resolution in my life (including 2009) can be summed up in to simple words, “INCLUDE JESUS!”.   To set aside religion, and step into relationship every new day with God through Jesus and His Holy Spirit.
Include Jesus, when I wake up and greet Him.  Include Jesus while I drive to work in talking with Him (or singing praises to Him).  Include Jesus throughout the day, when I can often take quick moments with my mind (spiritually) to thank Him while things are going well and not just cry out for His help when things are going bad (although He loves to help when we ask to Include Jesus, even with our problems), or just say “hello” once in awhile through the day.    Include Jesus when I do take intentional times to read His Word and/or pray (head bowed, eyes closed, standing, sitting, on my knees doesn’t matter).  Include Jesus when I’m enjoying life on a snowboard or mountainbike, or watching my kids play soccer or sing or play instruments.  Include Jesus when I’m sitting around the dinner table with my family.  Include Jesus when I struggle with temptation (He’s especially needed during times such as this).  Include Jesus when I feel lonely.  Include Jesus when I’m surrounded by thousands of people in a big city somewhere.  Include Jesus while I walk my dog.  Simply INCLUDE JESUS in the simple and complex things I do during each day!
OK, I admit it may sound too simplified, but I’m sticking by these two words, Include Jesus! My prayer now is that in 365 days, I won’t have to look back and try to fake a prayer of reporting to God all the things I did for him (trying to cover all the things I didn’t) over 2009, when obviously He knew everything I did anyways.  I prefer and hope to just look back and remember walking with Him, talking with Him through the year’s journey, day in and day out!  He was, is and always will be there alongside me (and you) anyways, but it’s so much more fulfilling for me when I just INCLUDE JESUS along the way, in big and small ways!  
One of LIFT’s “Elements” is that of Fire, or clearly stated, Worship.  And by Including Jesus, in all that we do, is worshiping during our daily life alongside worshiping as a church body together on a Sunday morning, or other various church related ministries or functions.  It’s all of the above all of the time! Worship is broad and comes in many forms, even normal daily routine activities when we simply Include Jesus!  A couple of my favorite passages are below that help remind me in all of my days (and ways) to acknowledge……and Include Jesus!
Proverbs 3:5-6”Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
In His grip and grace,

Corey