Pastor Steve’s Update to the Congregation

Pastor Steve’s Update to the Congregation

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Dear friends, it’s been a long couple of weeks and the bad news is there’s more of the same going forward. Are you ready for something different? Me, too. We’ve all been bombarded with COVID-19 alerts and information, and by now we are all conversant with the issues, practices and inconveniences sparked by coronavirus. By now you have a story to tell. One of the best ways for coping is having opportunities to talk about what we’re going through. In the weeks ahead our stories will be the emotional, relational, spiritual fuel we need. I’ve already been deeply moved, entertained and inspired by the stories I’m hearing and reading from you. Please continue telling your stories. Or start telling your stories. Post them on the LJCC Facebook page or send me your stories.

BTW, here’s what I mean by story: Your story is how you face challenges, make choices in the face of those challenges, and the outcomes your choices make. Think of your story as an ongoing update or progress report, describing “oh no!” and “aha!” moments in your life. Sharing your story lets us into your life and helps us understand you, pray with/for you, commiserate with you or celebrate with you. Stories connect us.

Here’s what we’re all curious about:
What are you continuing to do, what have you stopped doing and what have you started doing? What are you learning? What are you liking and not liking? How are you experiencing God and your need for him and your awareness of him? What are you discovering or confirming about yourself? How are you seeing relationships differently? What are you doing to express gratitude and appreciation? Any joys, disappointments, disasters or miracles you want to share? I am looking forward to hearing from you and so are lots of other people in our LJCC community. Reach out to me at Steve@ljcc.org

Best, Steve

P.S. Stay connected! Please read the weekly LJCC email, and Read Think Pray. Check our website for updates and resources. Feel free to email our staff with your questions, comments and concerns. We are a community of Christ-followers helping everyday people walk with Jesus every day. Thanks for being part of LJCC and applying your faith in worshipping, learning, growing, giving and serving!

A Message of Hope

A Message of Hope

Bob Goff

When our lives and routines get disrupted, big feelings arise. Then you add in the threat to our financial stability and health…even bigger reactions. Maybe you find yourself overcome with fear and anxiety. Or maybe you’re disengaging and shutting down emotionally. Either way- you’re human!

What does it look like to engage this unusual time with wisdom and grace?

Listen in as Bob and Scott talk about their response to the Great Shutdown this week on the Dream Big Podcast with Bob Goff & Friends. 

P.S. We know what an unusual time this is. What if this great disruption was an opportunity for you to engage with your learning and growth? For a limited time, we’re cutting the costs of all our digital courses starting tomorrow, Thursday, March 19th on dreambigframework.com/courses

Morning Check-In

Morning Check-In

I hope you are feeling well and getting enough sleep. The research from previous epidemics regarding the effects of isolation shows that the most effective coping strategies include structure, routine, human contact and a sense of purpose.

I’d frame these as questions:

  1. How can I order my day most effectively?
  2. What can I do to maintain my usual rhythm of work and rest in this situation?
  3. Who can I connect with today?
  4. What is my mission today in fulfilling my responsibilities, commitments and opportunities in the new normal?

I hope this helps you work through the predictable anxiety, stress, fear, confusion and boredom that comes with the new rules of Coronavirus. Good news: God is ruling over all and we can fulfill our mission in him under these circumstances. Advantage to us is that people are in a heightened sense of needing human connection and connection with God, both of which we can easily facilitate via phone, computer, limited face-to-face, and even drive by gifts of food, flowers or fun reminders of our love and care. Final thing we can do for our mission and our own wellbeing: read and pray! Read the Bible, meditate on what you read, and pray using ACTS as a simple structure: adoration, confession, thanks, supplication.Have a great day in the Lord and help others have a great day in his name!

Pastor Steve Murray

Advise from Dr. Gene Rumsey

Advise from Dr. Gene Rumsey

We are all coping with a disease that seems to be something new when in fact these viruses have been circulating in society all of our lives.   When we say we “fought off the flu” or “shook off a cold” what we really did was overcome a viral illness by making antibodies which killed a virus.   That is what our immune systems are supposed to do, as designed by our creator.     We are the progeny of the survivors of countless viral pandemics.  They lived long enough to have us.  And we are stronger for it. 

COVID-19 is not particularly lethal, but it is highly contagious.   It attacks the lungs more than the usual Influenza A, and therefore there is a vulnerable subset of the population of which we are all aware (elderly).   Young people have great lungs and barely know they are sick.   As you work your way up the age profile, especially for those five years older than you are, pulmonary function decreases making it harder to fight off a pulmonary illness.   The lungs may be unable to cope, and survival will depend on medical intervention with ventilator/ICU care which allows the immune system enough time to make antibodies to kill the virus.   If everyone gets sick all at once, the ICUs are overwhelmed.   If everyone’s home caught fire all at once, the fire departments would be overwhelmed too.  So the smart thing to do is SLOW walk the disease as much as possible to allow a manageable # of cases to come into each hospital.   That is what the CDC is trying to do – buy time – as they work on a vaccine.   

When the director of NIH says things will get worse, he is right – from a case count perspective.   It has to because that is what viruses do – they spread.    However, the disease itself does not get worse.   The overall survival rate is well above 99%.   Be glad it is not deadly to children as some other viruses have been.   Polio used to be called “infantile paralysis”.  In 1952 there were 58,000 cases of polio in U.S. children which killed 5% and permanently paralyzed 40%.

Here is what I have learned about this pandemic based on the best information available:

  1. COVID-19 is serious but usually not fatal
  2. It is highly contagious
  3. A vaccine is at least a year away
  4. Your personal behavior can mitigate the risk of contracting the disease but cannot eliminate the risk completely
  5. We may carry the disease and spread it unknowingly (if we had a mild case of Corona).  Therefore good personal hygiene is critical to protect others especially if you are around the elderly
  6. The goal of the CDC is to SLOW the progress of the disease so that hospitals are not overwhelmed with cases going to the ICU.   We can handle a few cases at a time but not a whole city at once
  7. It will follow the pattern of countless other viral illnesses which gradually fade into medical history but for now it is a crisis to be taken seriously

 So, what should we do?  Do not live in fear.  Live smart.   I think the CDC guidelines are excellent and should be followed to the letter. That’s enough for now. Gene

22 Summer Book Recommendations

22 Summer Book Recommendations

Read a summer book recommendation from Pastor Steve

The summer months are a great time to rejuvenate and restore. Whether at home, on a plane, or at your final destination, reading a new book is rewarding and beneficial. There are so many books to choose from, which is why I’ve narrowed it down for you with summer reading recommendations. These are books I have read and enthusiastically recommend! The books are divided up into categories that may help you further define the best titles for you.

Inspiring Stories of Faith
Gray Matter: A Neurosurgeon Discovers the Power of Prayer, Dr. David Levy

Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, Carolyn Weber

Daily Devotional
The Daily Bible – In Chronological Order, F. LaGard Smith

Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Bible Tapestry Volumes I & II, Laus Deo (Johann DeVilliers)

Personal Growth
A New Kind of Leader: What You Believe Can Open A Door For A Kid or Teenager’s Future, Reggie Joiner

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., Brene Brown

Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult people, Bob Goff

How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth, Cloud & Townsend

Biblical Study/Theology
People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just An Issue, Preston Sprinkle

Paul: A Biography, NT Wright

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, Alvin Platinga

Spiritual Disciplines
Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila

Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram, Alice Frying

The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard

History
Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, Barry Strauss

Social Commentary
Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Yossi Klein Halevi

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson

Professional Development
The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport

Purchase books on the patio on Sundays at the Books table. These adult reading recommendations are available in paperback or hardcover, and we accept payment in the form of cash or check. Speak to whoever is running the table about the selection of books we have available and to make a purchase. You may also enjoy the selection of books we have for children at the Books table.

How to navigate through transitions

How to navigate through transitions

He is the light that will guide you through change

Finding light in times of need

It seems like transitions are taking place in our lives daily. Think about the many ways we’re dealing with changes right now:  not only are the days are longer, but people are graduating, switching jobs, and even moving to new locations. For many of us, we’ve been here before, but some of us deal with change better than others. Like it or not, change happens. In the past, people handled change by keeping things the same, whereas nowadays we keep things different.

A philosopher recently commented, “stability is no longer the rule, it’s the exception” (Svend Brinkmann, “Stand Firm“). That’s an interesting take on change, but here’s an even more impressive take on change. Jesus was fond of saying things like, “Not a dot, not an iota of these words will pass away until everything is in the field” (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV). In other words, “not even the smallest change will happen until everything in this world passes away.” Jesus says things will not change depending on time, but we also know from Scripture that He does not change:  “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He knows what’s to come, whereas we cannot foresee what’s to come. We can trust God to be who He is until the end of time.

Change in our lives should come from the difference in our lives. What I mean by this is, the comfort we get out of the transition we’re going through should come out of the place in our hearts where the Lord is working within us. Here’s an example of a shift that took place between the Jews and Gentiles, where Paul recounts that Jesus united them:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near (Ephesians 2:14-17 NIV).

So, how do we find stability in the midst of change? The peace we’re looking for in the midst of transition is the change God brings about in our hearts when we abide in Him (Psalm 30:5). We should trust not in the variables that exist in our lives, but in Christ who is a constant, who turns rebels into faithful followers, poor to rich, lost to found, orphan to the favored child, from death to life (John 11:25). Join us as we seek God’s blessing in our own lives as one of His calling.

The Miracle Cure

The Miracle Cure

Dr. Olson's blog post, "The Miracle Cure," on the LJCC Blog.

There’s a Miracle Cure for nearly everything

Have you noticed how often we think about miracle cures? Right now I’m moving my week around so I can cash in on Turbo Tax’s “50% off Federal Filing Products” that is brightening up my inbox right now. Whether it’s purchasing a lottery ticket with the expectation of winning it all or saving money on the next big purchase, we expect little things to solve our big problems.

As a wise pastor wrote famously about marriage, we expect both too much and too little of the miraculous. What’s strange is we don’t expect nearly enough out of the provision God provides us with. Instead, we look for the next business deal. We are deeply skeptical of supernatural and, simultaneously, we as a people are converging on the present moment to satisfy our great longings and rectify the great wrongs. Miraculously. That’s what the definition of a miracle is, isn’t it? When something undone and undoable goes completely good, in an instant.

We’ve given up hope for the miraculous, which somehow means that when we have the innate desire for the supernatural to take hold of our lives, that desire is much stronger. It’s as if in the last couple hundred years of systematically disabusing ourselves of the miraculous we now, with instantaneous gratification, and compromised attention, and ever-present loneliness, find ourselves ever more oriented around that very thing.

Mercy at a time when we need it most

Jesus’ impending passion, crucifixion, and resurrection come at such a merciful time in our predicament. When most of us can’t spend five minutes without worrying, Jesus came and told us “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) The Bible goes on to say that the Father will take care of all our needs. (Matthew 6:25–34) Whoever thought the cure for our woes was the man Jesus, whose life was taken by people whose sins he was dying for? Whoever thought God actually loved you and me enough to subject himself to giving ‘His only Son.’? (John 3:16)

Whoever thinks, when we are casting about for something to soothe our troubled souls this is what we are really looking for? And if we’re really honest, who among us has the courage to believe the Miracle is true? But there it is. This week the church around the world will be struck down with Jesus as He is crucified for our sins. Sit with the rest of Jesus’ family as He lies in the tomb, and then watch as He’s brought to life. Hear the good news sisters and brothers. The Miracle Cure is alive and real; it’s the living God.

Join us in celebrating the good news on Easter Sunday with services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 am. Blessings to you in this season of the year when all of those in need of a miracle get one. 

Easter Services

Practice is back in season

Practice is back in season

Getting into the right mindset to return to work

Practice has come, thankfully, back into fashion. But what’s trending is more about how to practice self-discipline. There’s no shortage of books out there on this topic. An example is Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” that entices readers with the antidote for order in a chaotic world. The upside is clear: we move from the hopelessly incurvatus in se of ‘your truth/my truth’ and a destructively antagonistic attitude towards commitment, discipline, and obligation, back into a life actually going somewhere.

The downside is self-absorption: our tendency (as just recently uncommitted, anxious, guilty, often exhausted moderns) will be to practice life the same way we avoided practicing it. Namely, we will practice aimlessly and obsessively and self-consciously, ending up with discouragement and more anxiety, unrealized hopes and unrelieved fears. Worst of all is the gnawing lack of success of our chief desire – the victory of giving and receiving the love of Christ, who has given to us to expend our lives in.

The Basic Idea

Our culture is penduluming out of the unstructured morass of following the inner spinning compass, thank goodness, towards practice. But practicing can be just as counterproductive, just as detached and consumptive and distracting if done as ‘my schedule, my life, my world.’

Remember, practice is completely necessary for our job descriptions as those who lay down our lives for our friends (John 15:13) and enjoy God forever. To give up just because we struggle against self-absorption is to skip the race because we aren’t yet in shape. Take the Scottish philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre’s reflection on practice. MacIntyre writes about one of the great philosophical defenses of faith, and he does it by talking about virtue, which does by talking about practice. In summary, MacIntyre’s reflection on practice from “After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory,” is this:  A ‘practice’ is a beneficial and committed act that brings the goodness inherent in the action to fruition by doing the action excellently. In this, the goodness of the world is expanded.

The Bottom Line

How does someone proceed with excellence in practice? First, a jumping-off what we know practice to be; we have a tendency to make practice only about ourselves. But in fact, practice is really about discipleship – fixing our eyes on Jesus, of looking at Him more and more intently and more committedly and more lovingly and obediently. And since we are called to bear witness, would we not share the Good News with others? If not for looking to Him first, practice will merely accrue to whatever train we are riding on. Without a good reason, we have no shot at real hope. We have to want this Guy, and not just want Him. We have to choose Jesus: the one for whom we are all practicing (1 Timothy 4:15). Jesus has called Himself the Lord of the Harvest, the Bridegroom. It is He who is bountiful and gives us our daily bread.

Join us in giving thanks this season as we lean into committing ourselves to the ‘One from who everyone in Heaven and on earth derives their names’ with more of our heart and mind and body and strength. Lord let the good wind of devotion blow, and blow all over our lives and our land.

Want to know more about practice?

Revisit the November 2018 sermon series, “Practice” as a download or podcast with message titles such as “Honesty,” “Humility,” “Gratitude,” and “Wisdom.”

Transitioning Back to Work After Summer Break

Transitioning Back to Work After Summer Break

Getting into the right mindset to return to work

Back to Work Again After Summer

Work is a four-letter word most of us dread. We work now more than we ever have. We work for longer, with greater insecurity, expectation, and revolving casts. Our work is often not satisfying, and we usually don’t like someone we work with or the whole office for that matter. The cost to our families and ourselves is high. For many of us, being a worker is what we spend our adult lives doing. For many of us, being a ‘worker’ doesn’t have that much of a ring to it. Most of us would prefer to be on vacation.

If we’ve had a good summer, there’s the sad reluctance of saying goodbye to weekends at the beach and European vacations and enough sitting by the lake where God’s powers of enjoyment have begun again to recur. If it’s been a lousy summer, or no summer at all, work never came off the throne, leading us to think: It’s going to be another long year. When summer break is rewarding, we might keep looking back or push down the sadness at summer’s end in favor of new mountains to climb. If summer break was disappointing there’s just cause for angst, and perhaps plenty of it.

You’re Not Alone

Going back to work is work, it’s painful, and not easy for most of us. Going back to work is a choice; it costs us something to say “no” to, so we can say “yes” to our careers. Going back to work takes the renewal of a profound commitment that is maintained entirely through wills and hearts and minds.

So, what is the secret to reconditioning ourselves for more work? “Whatever we do, work at it with all our hearts, as working for the Lord and not for men, since we know we will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, for it is the Lord Christ we are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24) Going back to work according to the Worker Himself is an act of devotion, obedience, and hope. It is the intimacy of devotion because we are devoted to Him. It is the sacrament of obedience because we choose to obey Him. We go back to work because our hope is in the work. Our Lord has given us the way by which we become hopeful.

Consider this

We should look at going back to work, not in ‘word or talk, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). Going back to work with the futility it brings is reminiscent of the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19). Thank God we weren’t left overcome sin on our own (Luke 19:10). Jesus went about His work so well He gave us a clean slate. As a result, our job description is to be done for the Almighty Himself.

Join us this fall as His Body turns our heart back again to our work – laying down our lives for the Master and our friends. Then with our voice, let us speak to the ‘good works God has prepared in advance for us to do.’ Let us announce our return.

We believe God calls us into community with one another to do life together and that’s why life groups are so important. Life Groups offer an opportunity to encourage and support one another as we learn to walk with Christ and face everyday challenges. Take the step to joining a life group today.

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