Vander's Thoughts

Vander's Thoughts

Thursday, December 13, 2012


So far I've already gone to my third Christmas party and I still have two on my calendar. If there was ever a virus for White Elephant disease I think I got it. Although I really do think I’m going to enjoy using the Mr. Potato Head Potato peeler I got.

A very inspiring thing that happened in the midst of one of those parties was what my friend said in the middle of hosting one at her home. We were serving dinner and a spill occurred when she embarrassingly said something to the effect of, “Oh well just another stain on our wonderful carpet”. This of course made me look at down and, sad to say, I couldn't disagree with her. Her carpet was thrashed!

Now hear me out before you think I’m some mean spirited carpet snob. The “wonderful” thing about her thrashed carpet was it told a story. A story about what happens in her home. You see my friend is incredibly gracious and is always opening up her home to others. I would have to say that I've probably been over her house more than any other in my two years up here in the Northern California. And every stain, ever spill, and every unique color that isn't supposed to be part of her tan carpet is another chapter in how God uses her to show others what an open home is supposed to be.

One of my favorite pictures of the early church is from Acts 2 where it talks about what happened in the homes of those who followed God:

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” Acts 2”45-47 (The Message)

As I read this verse and remember my friend’s carpet, I can’t help but realize how God desires to use our homes to further His church. What an awesome privilege. What an awesome responsibility. What “wonderful” stains on our carpet!

So before ask for new carpet this Christmas or complain about the fresh hot chocolate stain that happened last night, let’s celebrate that God wants to use our homes to bring the joy of Christmas into our world. 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Heart

I found myself at my favorite burger place, Five Guys, yesterday for an awesome bacon jalapeno cheeseburger and their amazing fries, when something tragic occurred. I saw this gentleman stand up from his table and then immediately crash to the floor. I jumped from my chair to assist him, as did many others in the restaurant. Someone shouted out to call 911, so I reached for my phone, dialed, and found myself instantly speaking to an emergency dispatcher. After giving them the address and a brief description of what happened, I went back into the restaurant to see a motionless man lying on the floor with his wife laying over him trying to give him any type of comfort and everyone else standing there helpless. I was compelled to reach out to her and offered the only thing I could in that moment, prayer. I asked her if I could pray and she immediately shouted her affirmation. It was in that moment that I called upon to the Great Physician and His intervention.

As I laid my hand on the fallen man, however, I could feel that his life was no longer in his hand, it was cold. I remember the feelings of inadequacy in that moment as I kneeled there with this women and her husband and all I could do was plead for God’s involvement and His peace.  As I prayed out loud I could sense others in the room joining me and it was confirmed when I heard a collective Amen when I was finished. Within moments the paramedics where in the room and immediately went to work on this man’s heart which I found out later had been stopped for at least 5 minutes. They were able to regain a heartbeat with the defibrillator and whisked him off to the Emergency Room for the fight of his life. 

In the aftermath I was able to speak to a few people about the precious nature of life and the need to be right with God, but by the time I got back to my lunch it was cold and soggy and not very appetizing for a number of reasons. The manager let me know he appreciated my efforts and told me to come back for lunch on him whenever I wanted. As I made my way to the soda fountain for a quick refill, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and completely lost it. I was shocked. I mean I have been doing this pastor thing for over 17 years and the many funerals and countless hospital visits had never done this to me before. Why was my heart so burdened in this moment like never before?

It really makes you ponder the condition of your physical heart when you experience something like that. However, the most important condition of our hearts is the one Jesus mentions in Matthew 22,

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

The true condition of our heart is measured in our love for God, for others and ourselves. It all goes hand in hand. What good is a physically healthy heart if the true condition of our heart is corrupted with a lack of love? What I experienced yesterday was a culmination of what I believe Jesus was expressing.

Our hearts need to be primarily focused on our love for God and need for Him in our lives. He is our true heartbeat and source of life. We then to need to be sharing that love with others by the way we share our lives. And finally, we need to love ourselves by caring for the physical bodies He has given us to glorify Him as long as possible in this life.

I hope your heart is in the best condition possible and you are seeking His love, sharing His love and allowing Him to love you.

By the way, I made sure to go an extra mile on the Elliptical for my workout this morning and I’m also not sure when I’ll be up to consuming one of those burgers again.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I’m not sure how you define a shortcut, but for me it’s a way to get somewhere faster. It doesn't necessarily have to be shorter, but if I can get where I want to be quicker, then I’m all for finding a shortcut. There are all kinds of short cuts in life. Like skipping the freeway at rush hour to take surface streets or taking a diet pill to raise your metabolism to lose weight faster (if that even really works). I even look for the shortest checkout lines to get into even if that means cutting off someone who has been there longer. We all do that right? Man, I hope I’m not the only one who does this because then I’m a chump!

But have you ever thought about the cost of shortcuts? Sure they help us get to where we want to be quicker, but we may be missing an opportunity to grow in the process. We often speak of life with God as a journey and on this journey there are lots of choices we get to make. Many of those choices have to do with choosing the quickest path or the most beneficial path, and all too often they aren't the same.

Let’s say you need to develop patience, do you think it’s wise to always look for the quickest path or to start practicing waiting? What if you want to develop temperance, do you think it’s better to treat yourself to whatever makes you feel better or begin to practice saving or self-care? I think we could ably this process to all of our struggles like anger, stress and even envy. Shortcuts don’t just cut off time they can cut into our very life.

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” Matthew 7:13-14 (Message)

Next time you’re tempted to take a short cut, first ask yourself what you might learn if you choose to work through it and then see how God develops and grows you because of it.

Don’t sell yourself short with shortcuts. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I’m a pretty avid Sportscenter guy. I probably don’t go a day without at least watching a portion of it to catch up on the world of sports. Because there is something about seeing the Top 10 highlights everyday that are highly entertaining, but unfortunately also make me feel pretty inadequate. Which gets me to the point of my thought. Why is it that when a draft is about to happen or a team has traded someone, we only see the highlights and not the ‘low’lights or at least the ‘real’lights? In the NBA a player has a good night when a he shoots 43%. That means he missed 57% of his shots, but we don’t see those. And in baseball, a hitter is considered great when he goes .350, meaning he got a hit 3.5 times for every 10 at bats. Well what about the 6.5 outs he got? Boy I wish I was measured on the same scale in life. I mean how great it would be if no one ever remembered the times I said something stupid, or forgot to gargle, or worse yet wore my shirt inside out.  

But that’s what so great about God’s grace. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, grace is like a highlight reel in our life. Because of Jesus, our sin, shortcomings, mistakes, blemishes, stains, wrinkles, flaws, and everything else that keeps us imperfect is forgiven. Meaning God doesn’t see it anymore. 

"Their sins and lawless acts I remember no more." - Hebrews 10:7 

When the cross and your life collide, it’s called Gracecenter. Let the highlights begin. 
Dun-na-na Dun-na-na!  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Recently our home has felt a little like a hotel. Maybe it’s the price of travel or that we live in a pretty great area of California, but we have had the privilege and pain of hosting many of our friends as guests in our home this summer. Hey don’t get me wrong, I love having people over, but it’s nice to finally have our home back to ourselves and finally no one is eating all of my Pop Tarts. I have come to realize is that even though guests are fun to have over, guests are also a lot of work. I’m sure we have all said, “make yourself at home” at one time or another to the guests that come to our home and to a certain extent we mean it, but to another extent we don’t really think they’ll take you up on it. I mean we just say it to be nice right? I think I did more dish washing and shut off more lights in the past two weeks then I have all year.

I love the story Jesus tells when he compares being a guest in someone’s home to life with God.

"When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, 'You're in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.' Red-faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, 'Friend, come up to the front.' That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."

Being a guest is a privilege, but being invited is an honor. I hope I can remember that when I go to someone’s home, but also every day that I realize that I am a guest to experience life. God has invited us to honor Him with our lives and to live everyday remembering Him. When we place ourselves first before everyone else, we will only experience temporary recognition and comfort in life and eventually embarrassment when we are exposed for who we really are. However, when we place others first we can experience the real thrill of having God promote us in life. I haven’t got this totally figured out yet, but I’m working on being a good guest every day.

In the meantime come on over, just remember to eventually leave.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


The dreams that I have while I sleep are often strange entertainment. Rarely do they make any sense and they often make me wonder what the heck is going on inside my head. I’ve had dreams of flying, dreams where I couldn’t pedal a bike, and my least-favorite-of-all-dreams where I am reliving a job from my past and I’m in trouble because I forgot to do something. When I wake up I simply have to remind myself that it was just a dream and I’m not really going to get fired. Then there are those dreams that we remembered we had, but we can’t remember what they’re about. Often all I really remember are the emotions I had while I was dreaming.

Experts say that dreams or our minds way of reshuffling our stored information and memories to allow us to make room for more. Which makes perfect sense and even gives me some peace about the randomness of my dreams, but then there are those dreams that are incredibly vivid and detailed. You know exactly who is in them and exactly where you are at. And I have to wonder if there isn’t something more going on in that moment of thought within my grey matter. Like something profoundly spiritual is happening.

The bible is filled with references to dreams being a method of how God got someone’s attention and motivated them to act or respond. We see them in both the old and new testaments and because of the response to those dreams lives were changed and God’s purposes were realized. If this is the case, then I think the dreams that have that deeper affect on us should cause us to not just sit up in bed, but to motivate us to live differently.

We often refer to the hopes and aspirations of a person as their dreams. And at the same time we know that we don’t control the dreams we have while sleeping, but God can and does speak into some of them. Therefore, I believe that the dreams that come from God are all about the things He desires us to know and realize. God inspired dreams can be about what burden’s Him or what concerns Him, all to draw attention to His plan and will. Some dreams are a portal into the heart of God.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” – Joel 2:28-19

So what are we supposed to do when we have these types of dreams? Respond. Don’t just dismiss them as random, purposeless, memory shuffling synapses. Pray for understanding, reach out to those who you dreamt about, and go with what you think God wants you to do. In this way our dreams can have the profound affect God intends for them.

And I’m one of those people that doesn’t even dream in color! What’s up with that!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Right or Just Wrong?

I am reading the book by David Kinnaman, You Lost Me, about the reason why many young Christians are leaving the church and it’s having a sobering affect on me. I’m convinced more than ever that God is good, Jesus loves us, and the church has to do a better job of living out the gospel.

What particularly struck me today in my reading was a story that David tells about his friend Luke who works at a local coffee shop that he frequents. It seems that a man comes into the coffee shop everyday and regularly buys a small coffee and then always asks for an extra large cup as well. He then proceeds to put cream and sugar in his small coffee and then fills the extra large cup with 2% milk. After watching this man do this a number of times, Luke informed him that the next time he came in he would have to charge him for the cup if he continued to fill it with milk. The man became so upset that he complained to the manager and in the end the result was that Luke was written up for “failing to leave the customer with a positive experience”.

Say what? When I read this story my jaw literally dropped with astonishment. I get it, value the customer, apologize for upsetting him, and give him a pleasant experience, but how can someone be written up for doing what is easily seen as the moral thing? What about saying, “Way to go Luke thanks for looking out for the best interest of the company” and rewarding him. When did our value system as a society change to depend more on the outcome of the situation rather than our own rights?

I guess why this hijacks my emotions a bit isn’t because I’m worried if I’m going to eventually get busted for putting too much cream in my coffee, but more about how this reality will continually erode our world. What this begins to tell the next generation is that it is wrong to stand up for what they believe and it’s wrong to make a determination about someone else’s situation and react to it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if someone hadn’t stood up to me and questioned my behavior. I owe my very life and soul to someone who didn’t even know me, but spoke to me about what they saw wrong with my life.

In our society there has to be a standard to operate on to make us strive to achieve something greater and something more profound and useful than doing what we want. God set the standard for us and the more we know Him the more we live by His standards.

It is not what you and I do... It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! – Galatians 6:16 (The Message)

Have the courage to stand up for what you believe and help others see the standard that God set for us to live up to.