What’s it Worth?

What’s your time worth? If you were to put a value on your time, what would it be?

Well, many (most) of us trade our time for money in order to pay for the necessities of life.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average worker in the US trades an hour of their effort for just about $23. (I must admit I was surprised it was that high, but that includes highly paid people in the average too)

Many of us think about our time in terms of exchanging it for money, especially if money is tight.  However, we often forget the opportunity costs that come along for the ride when we work overtime or are so tired from work that we can’t do the other things we want to.

God has really been working on me with opportunity costs lately.  This summer I resigned one of my teaching positions because it was just taking too much time from my family, and the bottom line was that the cost of teaching was too great.  That’s not to say that I don’t like teaching’; far from it.  But the opportunity cost was too high.

Jesus keeps bringing this topic to mind, and as I did my devotions the past couple of weeks this came to me again:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, ESV)

 
A black bear that came for a drink. And proof that, had I had a bear tag, that I would have got him. :)What will it profit me if I exchange my soul for the world? What, in the end, is the lost opportunity from what I am pursuing.  I actually read these words while sitting in a hunting blind with my son, enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods of Northern Arizona.  Sure I was passing up some chances to be up there with him hunting elk, but it was worth it.
 
Jesus brought it to mind again yesterday as I was studying.  I have made a conscious effort to be home more recently, and yesterday I decided to work from home in the afternoon so that I could be around for the kids and help Laura too.  James got restless in the afternoon, and there I was translating Exodus 14 in my recliner.
 
I had an opportunity to love on my son, so I put the laptop aside and grabbed the football.  We probably only played for a half hour, but soon he will be grown up and gone, and my opportunities to sow some love into him will be gone.  And Exodus 14 was still there waiting for me when we got done!
 
I am trying to look more for not only what I can do, but what it costs me to do what I do and whether those opportunity costs are worth it.  And because of that, I am spending my time in some different ways, with plenty more to work on!
 
How about you? Do you think about opportunity costs? In your spiritual life, are you considering what you pass up to take part in what you do? Is Prison Break or Monday Night Football or Battlefield 3 taking up enough time that your opportunity to worship Christ is passed? How about in your relationships, your habits, your thought life?
 
Where is God leading you in making the most of the opportunities you have right now?

Which Angle?

Have you ever wondered why two people can have the same experience but come away from it with two totally different impressions?  Have you ever marveled at how one person can lose their job and end up with a degree and a better career, while another person loses their job and just ends up out of work and bitter?

I got a lesson in the difference on Wednesday.  Laura and I had such a fantastic night that night!  We went to ACU’s President’s Banquet to hear a speech by President Bush, who was funny and engaging and honest.  We had a great time, and I think that the ACU community was honored by it. 

Even better than that was a big lesson that the President shared with us.  His speech was about taking his faith with him into the Oval Office, and in the middle of his speech he told a story about going to Rwanda. (oh man, did my ears perk up when he started talking about Rwanda!!)  He got to meet 15 or 16 children there who had lost their parents to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. 

Now, put yourself in those children’s shoes.  They are in an incredibly poor country and have the additional burden of losing their parents to AIDS.  They have, quite literally, nothing.  They were orphans, destitute and many would say hopeless.

President Bush said that he wondered what to say as he walked by them, and for some reason decided to say to them, “God is good.”  Their response to him was to say in unison, “All the time!”  Think about that a moment…these children had more excuse than anyone to be upset at God and to have a terrible attitude, and yet their immediate response to the statement “God is good” is to reply, “All the time!”

Wow.  What makes the difference?  It’s all in the angle.  These kids didn’t see God through the lens of their problems.  Instead, they saw their problems through the lens of their God.  And that is a major difference between a life of frustration, anger, and loneliness and a life of resilience and success.

Sometimes, we look at God through the “lens” of our problems:

Problem

Our problem stands between us and Jesus, so our problem “frames” or provides the “lens” through which we see God.  This is what happens when life gets unfair and it makes us question God’s character based on our experience. (I did this some after my car wreck)  We say,

“How can God be good if this has happened to me?” 
“I feel lonely, which means that God must not be there.”
“This financial disaster must mean that God doesn’t care, because if He cared this wouldn’t happen.”

On the other hand, we can instead see our problem through the lens of God:

Jesus

In this scenario, we see our problem through the lens of our God and His character affects the way we view our problem.  This is what Paul is really talking about in the famous passage in Philippians 4:12-13:

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ” (Philippians 4:12–13, NAS)

He saw his problems through the lens of the God he served, not the other way around!  By looking at life through the lens of Jesus Christ, Paul found the stability to weather the storms of life.  Through looking at life through Jesus and His character, Paul put his problems in an eternal perspective.  This is exactly what the kids in Rwanda said to President Bush, and as I considered this today it seems to me that this was instrumental to me recovering emotionally from my wreck as well.

So how do you build a view of the world that looks at problems through the lens of God and not vice versa?

  1. Put God’s Word inside of you.  You won’t know God’s character if you don’t get your nose in the book!  Recognize His goodness, His love, His justice, and His mercy in there.  Soak in His character; breathe it in and accept who He says He is.
  2. Whatever circumstance you come to, ask God how to see it in light of who He is rather than letting it determine who you think He is.  I had to do this with my wreck a lot, because it seemed pretty cruddy to me.  I had to ask God many times to show me how His goodness was reflected in my wreck.
  3. Reflect on God’s character and, without getting all churchy and sloganeering, rest in God’s character when life gets tough.  Don’t ignore your problems, but put them in perspective in light of who God is.  When injustice happens to you, remember that God is just and will make all things just.  When someone hurts you, remember that God is love and their unloving actions do not make God unloving.
  4. Apply God’s character to the problem you’re facing.  If you can’t see how it applies, then ask God (repeatedly if necessary!) to show you where and how His character comes to bear on the situation.

This approach won’t make your problems go away automatically; it won’t pay bills, or stop the loneliness, or erase the abuse. However, it will keep those problems from becoming overwhelming and train you to see Him first and your problems second.

Has there been a time when this kind of approach has helped you?  How has seeing your problems through God’s character made the experience different for you?

A Divine Appointment, and a Chance for You to Help!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

I hate asking people for money.  I suppose that because I am a pastor I am sensitive to the impression that clergy are money-hungry and in the ministry for the financial benefits. There is certainly a wrong way to go about it, which is unfortunately all too popular:

If you haven’t heard, I have been asked to participate in a mission trip to Rwanda from July 21st-August 1st.  I will be teaching approximately 20 pastors Bible interpretation and preaching skills, as well as pastoral skills.  I can’t wait!  The trip is totally an act of God, in that last week at this time I knew nothing about it.  Please pray for me as I prepare to go.

Laura, my beautiful wife, has seen the need for a woman with her skills there and is going to go as well.  We firmly believe that God has provided for this trip for us in many ways (see her letter below); the only needs that remain are for people to pray for us and for people to provide the finances to make it a reality.  If you can help, I would be very grateful.  Below is her letter!

Have you ever had God drop something in your lap that made you overwhelmingly excited and scared to death at the same time? If so, I can relate. My reason is probably different than yours though, so let me explain.

Usually, people fall into one of two groups: those who dream of going to a third world country (especially as one being sent representing Jesus Christ), and those who have NO interest in leaving America for an “un-industrialized” country. I’m one of the former; my draw has been to Africa for some time. I figured I would go eventually- on a special anniversary or important birthday. I pictured myself staying in a “nice” hotel, eating at the “safe” restaurants, and taking the “planned” excursions. You know-“nice,” “safe,” and “planned” being the big words there. And then… God got involved.

Last Thursday, June 10, John got an email from a local church. They were seeking someone to teach and train pastors whom had little or no Bible training, but a huge heart to learn. It was for a 10 day trip. To Rwanda. In less than six weeks! Incredulously, it was just about the only 10 day time frame that would fit into John’s busy schedule. The sponsoring church was going to pay his way. I was thrilled about the opportunity for him. Even more so, I was excited about the idea of going with him! There was a chance for me to use my skills as a doula (labor and delivery support person) to help with the birthing women who come to that village specifically to have their babies. Perfect!
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Immediately, though, there were challenges to be overcome. What would our church think? What we would we do with the kids? Could I find someone to be with the women I was supposed to be a doula for here? Was it safe? And how ON EARTH would we be able to raise enough funds to cover my trip costs of nearly $4000 in just five weeks??

Just as quickly, God began to open doors. The elders of our church and the congregation were supportive; I found a backup doula for my client; John’s parents offered to take the kids for the entire time; and I found a peace that I’ve never experienced when thinking of the “what ifs” regarding my health and safety. Which only left the fundraising. I simply refuse to believe that God would make such a straight path- providing answers in the most amazing time frame- only to fail to provide the money for us to go to Africa as a couple. Luke 1:38 reminds me that “…nothing is impossible with God.” In comparison to all the fantastic things He’s ever done, it makes fundraising seem like a fairly small thing! Watching the ways He’s already worked, I am excited to watch him work in this area as well.

That being said, would you like to be a part of making the seemingly “impossible,” possible? ANY financial donations will be helpful. Whether you can donate $1, 10, 25, 50 or more… every bit is helpful! You can use it as a tax deduction if you make the contribution through our church, West Greenway Bible Church, 5341 W. Greenway Rd, Glendale AZ 85306. Please make checks out to WEST GREENWAY BIBLE CHURCH, with “Laura’s trip” “Africa” or “Rwanda” in the memo line (otherwise it will make it into the general fund. Good for the church, but not so helpful towards my fundraising).

If you are not worried about the receipt, you can give cash or check donations to me directly, or deposit it in my Paypal account (email address: TheCorreias@cox.net). Paypal does not have a fee when the money comes from your Paypal account or bank account. However, there is a 3% fee when you use a credit or debit card, or with Paypal Credit, so please take that into consideration. Please remember to include your name and address with your donation so I can send acknowledgment of your gift. If donors’ generosity exceeds the trip costs, I will use the excess to bring basic necessities (that are unfortunately lacking) to the birthing/medical center I’ll be working with.

Perhaps you have a heart to help, but are unable to do it monetarily. Please consider partnering in prayer with us as we go. We will only be successful with people praying for us! In addition to the money needed to be raised in a short amount of time, there are many logistical hurdles to overcome. If you are interested in praying for us leading up to the trip and/or while we are gone, that would be an amazing blessing. Please email us at TheCorreias@cox.net to get prayer specifics.

Thank you so very much for supporting us in whatever way you find yourself lead- financially, prayerfully, or perhaps you could link this note to your Facebook page or blog… even just in sharing our excitement with us! This experience has truly shown me the magnificence of God in a very real way. I hope that you are able to grow close to Christ in your life, and can be confident knowing He has a plan for your life… even if it includes Africa!

In Christian love,
Laura Correia
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4 Inches From Eternity

It has been quite a day for personal reflection and consideration. You see, I was almost killed today, and that is no great exaggeration. In the process of narrowly avoiding death I was reminded of two significant truths that have been ringing in my ears all afternoon.

I greatly enjoy riding my motorcycle. I’ve been riding motorcycles almost my whole life; I got a little 50cc, no clutch shift dirt bike as a gift from my grandpa for my fifth birthday and have been riding ever since. I currently ride a pretty beat up Honda Shadow Sabre that I bought for a song a couple of years ago. It’s a great bike and it gets around 40-45 mpg, which is triple what my big ol’ diesel pickup gets. So I ride whenever I can and enjoy it.

Today I was headed to school and about to cross through an intersection I have driven through hundreds of times. It has three lanes in the direction I was going. The light was green in my direction, but the far right lane had a stack of cars piled up because someone was crossing in the crosswalk. The far left lane had 3 or 4 cars in it as well, some headed for the left turn lane. I was in the middle lane with no one in front of me, doing 45 and enjoying the cool of the November air. (it was probably in the low 60s this morning…gotta love Arizona)

Then things went bad in a REAL hurry. A car in the left lane decided to make a right turn. So he pulled into the center lane and stopped, then put his right turn signal on and waited for an opening in the right lane that wasn’t there because of the wait for the pedestrian. At the time I was, oh, 30-40 feet from his rear bumper.

I hit the brakes, but I was in the center of the lane near the intersection. (big mistake) There’s lots of oil in the center of the lane near the intersection, so my back tire promptly locked up. I’ve been riding for almost 3 decades and taken two defensive motorcycling classes, so I know that if you lock up the rear tire the thing to do is keep it locked up and slide to a stop. If you don’t you high-side the bike, (because you go over the “high side” of the bike) which looks like this:

The problem was that the second I realized that I was sliding I also realized that if I kept it locked up I would slide into the rear of the car at about 35 mph, which would probably be bad on my skeletal system! So I let the brakes go. The bike waggled a good bit but thankfully I didn’t go over the high side. I got control of it about 10 feet from his bumper.

Now I was really on the horns of a dilemma. (Remember, all of this is happening in under a second) I had a car stopped in front of me, cars stacked up to my right, and I knew I had a car to my left too. I just wasn’t sure if the car to my left was in my blind spot or had backed off. With no time to consider, I yanked my bike onto the lane stripe and wordlessly prayed that I could squeeze between the two cars.

I passed the moron careless idiot reckless driver at about 30mph; I missed him off my right side by about 4 inches, though I didn’t exactly have my ruler out to measure.

The funny thing for me is that right after I got back into my lane I thought about pulling over so that I could have the adrenaline dump that I knew was coming. Then I thought about it again and realized that my heart rate wasn’t even up! It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be scared.

Instead I thought, “Well I should have died this morning…but I didn’t…that means it’s going to be a pretty good day!” I had a good time teaching this morning, a great lunch with my wife and a friend, and a great appointment with a man who is seeking a path to God and asked me for help.

I would love to tell you that I have mad riding skills and should have won the Monaco GP last year, but that is not reality. No, I understand what the real deal is, which Psalm 121 sums up well:

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun will not smite you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;

He will keep your soul.

8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forever.

I know why I survived this incident and I have no illusions it was my stunning motorcycling skills. It is abundantly obvious to me that God’s not through with my life on earth! I was also reminded of what James tells us in James 4:14-16,

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

None of us gets a guarantee of tomorrow, or even the rest of today! Trust me, He has my attention.

Now to cook dinner, see my wife’s parents who are visiting, and play a game of chess with my son.

After I ride that motorcycle home.

Up and Away

We don’t see a lot of movies in the theaters. Buying 6 tickets plus enough popcorn and soda to feed the Correia army is too expensive! We also tend to be Nazis when it comes to what we let our family watch, and combining those two facts leads to very few trips to the movies for our clan. However, every once in awhile we will go to the cheap theater near us when they are playing a movie the family will enjoy.

Sunday after church was just such an occasion. Laura was running errands and noticed that the Disney-Pixar film “Up” was playing at that theater, so we decided to take the family to a Sunday evening showing. Laura and I had seen it on a date night in July and enjoyed it, so we took the kids, got a 55 gallon drum of popcorn at the concession stand, and enjoyed it together.

The second time I watched the movie I really paid attention to the themes and the lessons that it taught. I recommend the movie highly to people of all ages; if nothing else, Dug is hilarious.

WARNING! PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know some important plot elements, then wait to read this post until you’ve seen it.

“Up” is a story about Carl Fredericksen. His life is turned upside down as a senior citizen when he sets out to fulfill a promise he made to his deceased wife when they were kids. Read a great plot synopsis here if you are unfamiliar with the movie and want an overview of the plot lines. If you haven’t seen it, read the overview before continuing! (that reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books… “if you’ve seen the movie, turn to page 46. If you want to go read the synopsis, turn to page 67.”)

The big theme of the movie that struck me concerns desires and goals. Carl promised Ellie as a kid that he would take her clubhouse to Paradise Falls, and after her death he goes to amazing lengths to do so. Russell wants very much to get his “assisting the elderly” badge so that his dad can be there to pin it on him when he becomes a Senior Wilderness Explorer. Even the villain of the movie, Charles Muntz, lives his life to prove that the bird skeleton he brought to America long ago was not a hoax, spending decades tracking a live specimen down.

All the main characters in the film have to come to grips with whether the goals they have made for themselves are really taking them where they want to go. The first to realize the problem is Russell, who throws his Wilderness Explorer sash at Carl’s feet when Carl allows Kevin to be captured in order to save his house. He realizes that he can’t abandon his friend Kevin to achieve his own goals, putting the spirit of the Wilderness Explorers first.

Carl learns his lesson late in the movie. He allows Muntz to capture Kevin and lets Russell leave, all so he can get his wife’s house to Paradise Falls. As he looks through her adventure book, though, he realizes that the adventure that he thought she was waiting to have in Paradise Falls had instead been fulfilled in her life with him. It wasn’t the clubhouse in South America that she wanted so much as a life of adventure. Once Carl realizes that, he changes his mind, rescues Kevin and Russell, saves the day, and has the grand adventure in South America Ellie had wanted.

Charles Muntz, sadly, does not learn the lesson and ultimately falls to his death from his ship while pursuing Kevin to the end.

At the end of the movie Russell doesn’t get to spend time with his dad; Carl ends up pinning on his final badge. Carl never gets to live on Paradise Falls, though he has adventures with Russell and Dug. Neither of them get what they wanted when the movie began, though both end up with the desire of their heart. Russell has a father figure to enjoy his boyhood with and Carl has a grand adventure in the spirit of Ellie’s dying wish for him.

What a great reminder of the biblical difference between our desires for our life and the goals we set out to achieve them. We set out to provide security for our families financially, doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. When we do, though, how often do we ignore what God says in James 4:13-15?

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

How often do we think that we will be happy when we are married, only to read what Paul says in 1 Cor 7:32-35 and realize that marriage can’t make us happy. We think that blessing comes from our children, and while it can give us joy to see our kids happy and successful we tend to forget Ecclesiastes 6:3.

Instead, the words of Jesus have been ringing in my ears this week, no less so than when I watched Carl and Russell learn that their happiness did not come from the achievement that they sought. Luke 11:27-28 says it succinctly:

27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Whatever we think might make us happy or successful will not get us what we seek! Instead, it is only hearing the word of God and observing it that can bring lasting joy. Our marriage, finances, jobs, kids, and friends will only bring lasting joy if they are the means by which we obey God. If they are the source of joy we will fail, but if they are the means by which we seek in everything we do to glorify God and be obedient to Him, then we will have the desire of our heart.

Carl got the grand adventure Ellie sought for him. Russell got the father figure he needed. They only got it, though, when they gave up their vision of fulfillment and accepted what was given to them instead. How about you? Are you still chasing your vision of success or happiness, or have you decided to follow the Lord wherever He leads and be obedient to Him?