The Solution to New Year Resolutions

The Solution to New Year Resolutions

A group chatting.

Okay, folks! We’re almost a month into the New Year. What do we have to show so far for those resolutions? To be honest, I’m not doing the best with my resolutions and I suspect that might be the case for you, too.

Oftentimes we have a tenuous experience of carrying things through the gauntlet of our busy lives, but we have to carry things through if we are to make good on them. One thing that we often miss when making resolutions is that we don’t account for worries, or the fears that so consistently give rise to those worries, but they happen year after year.

I realize it’s starting to sound like commitments aren’t worth making, but hang in there. Let’s put some context on how we usually handle commitments. As people, we often divest ourselves of as many commitments as we can manage. We fantasize about a week, or a day, or even five minutes, where we don’t have to do anything, and can sit back and be rid of life’s problems. Other times we flip the script and urgently try to make changes in our lives like getting another job, going back to school, starting a family, or getting both kids into after-school programs. Our on-again, off-again habit of commitment is the roller-coaster a lot of us know firsthand.

So why is something so difficult, personal, and scary worth doing? Because God’s commitment to us is at the center of our lives, and we are coming into relationship with Him. At Christmas, we are reminded of the gift He gave to us. In January, He gives us strength, unifies us as a body of believers, and reminds us with His life in us that our lives are good when they are together. With God and with one another our worries and fears don’t cripple us the way they do when we are on our own. Together we can be committed to life. So at LJCC we commit to winter camp, to the season of Lent, to celebrating His resurrection at Easter, to finishing the construction on our campus, to baptisms, weddings, memorials, summer camp, beach days, more weddings, baptisms and memorials, tithing, sending people down to Mexico, all the hours of Bible studies, visiting the sick and being visited ourselves.

We want to invite you to do the same. Come and commit to a year of being closer to God, and helps us ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ all the year through. Come to the sermon this week about how God taught a timid person to commit to much more than his timidity. Help us to see this year all the way through. And let us help you to do likewise.

Peace in a no-peace Christmas

Peace in a no-peace Christmas


I have been in so many stores that I cannot find the thing I want to buy for Christmas. I went to too many stores and now I’ve forgotten where it is! Christmas came and went faster this year than it ever has before. Unconsciously speaking about it in the past tense a full week before it’s happened tells you all you need to know about how I’m doing this year. And what’s a little spooky is this year, for the first time I can remember, I pushed back against that ceaseless trajectory of my life a little bit less.

From the looks of it, human life has been speeding up almost since it began. For a while it was slow. Camels could only be selectively bred so fast. Then there were horses. Then there war horses and warships. Then in the last 150 years, there were trains then cars then planes then electricity then phones then email then Instagram. In all likelihood somewhere in those last 150 years you and yours got swept away. The course of the life is now at full flood stage. San Diego is an epicenter of the flood. Christmas and its competing demands for work and family and celebration and annual conclusion exemplify our penchant and commitment to frenetic existence.

But here’s the thing:  there is still peace in this little life and this perhaps, no-peace Christmas. One of Jesus’ names we use around His birthday, is Immanuel – God with us. Immanuel refers to God becoming a person – ‘incarnating’ Himself – which is this lovely visceral word that literally means ‘enfleshed.’ God descended from the realm of all glory and ceaseless adoration and entered into the womb of a young girl in a captive country to make things right again. God registered Himself amongst our human race and has been gathering people up into a life-changing embrace ever since. Here is the mercy and peace for all of us: that given we are who we are, that God is who Immanuel is.

Come to our Christmas Eve service. Take a break. Have a respite. On the eve of the big day, step into peace for an hour. Start the holy day early by initiating it in peace the night before. Be ahead for once. 🙂 Walk out on Christmas Eve with the peace of the Presence of God, having come to be with His people, yesterday, today and forever. Know in a deeper way, or for the first time, what a wise pastor calls the “hope of Christmas and the joy of Christmas.” Knowing God often gets made out to be a lot more troubled and vexing than He Himself is.

Let us try to make out the proclamation of peace – the moment everything changed:
“Joy to the world – the Lord has come.”
“For unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given.”

To us! But can it be? Yes:  somehow our Savior has come. The Lord has come:  to bind up the broken-hearted, to set us at liberty in the midst of our oppression, to reconcile us to God, to proclaim His favor. He has come to make us His family. Christ has come, ‘with the government’ of all of the grievous, confounding, unmanageable things of our many lives ‘upon His shoulders.’ Join us at the Christmas Eve service as we receive our King. And Merry Christmas.

The Race and the Prize

The Race and the Prize

The Race and Prize

The expert of the law and the Lord said the same thing: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18)

That is what we’re called to do if we want to inherit eternal life. It is our big chance in life. It’s our ticket out of the fall and into the Kingdom.

Pastor Steve pointed out, this is the question that God gives us – “who is my neighbor?” It’s something we can’t afford to misunderstand or fail to hear. “A new commandment I give you – love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Recollect a few things Pastor Steve said to this point:

  • “We are the people of the Word.”
  • “If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:14-15)
  • “This is a love issue. My relationship with myself sets the tone for all relationships I have.”

When we end up with our back up against the wall (surely this will happen at times) – let us pray we do not forget that we are lovers of God and neighbor and so then the way forward is this. In this endeavor we can always succeed. This is the soul-anchoring hope of Christ winning out in our lives. In this endeavor we may succeed whenever we desire. This is the love of Christ in us. This is the promise of the cross. Love of God and neighbor is what fulfills our lives – it is the race and prize.

So “set out towards justice” as Steve said. Form, further and fulfill relationships with your neighbor and yourself until the particularities of whom God desires to be becomes clear. Remember:  relationships always resolve themselves into particularities. If you aren’t sure where God is in your neighbor’s life or your own, it’s an optics problem. You aren’t close enough to see.

So get to know/love your neighbor and yourself. Ask the questions and raise the issues. Sincerity and love allow incredible kinds of communication/bonding not otherwise available. In Christ, all kinds of otherwise impossible and high and holy things are possible. God is reconciling people to Himself. Let’s be people who have the deal-making joy of saying “yes.”

Thriving in Community

Thriving in Community

Thrive in Community

Thriving in Community

Ours is a multi-layered community, replete with many hiding places. We can hide in our cars, behind our front doors. We can separate our public lives from our private ones. The real concern in this is, how much does this erode our sense of community?

Early Christians did not separate their public and private lives, according to Christian author, C. Kavin Rowe, in his e-book called Thriving Communities (Amazon.com). Rowe writes that “being Christian is by its very nature a public confession and identity.” In addition, ‘Christian’ was not first used as an internal self-designation. It was instead a term coined by outsiders, by those who could see a thriving community and needed a word with which to describe them.”

What’s most noteworthy is this label is given according to your actions and behavior witnessed by others. How wonderful is that? Consequently, the essence of community is working with and beside others as disciples of Christ to carry out his will.

As Pastor Steve pointed out, thriving in community can include everything from surfing to sleeping, from laughter to lightheartedness to love. The takeaway is, love creates community through relationships. And community is a gift from God.

Fulfillment and Fried Chicken

Fulfillment and Fried Chicken

Fulfillment and Fried Chicken

Mentoring others in their faith is a way to become a greater disciple of Christ. On Sunday, June 18, 2017 Pastor Steve urged us all to be a guide to others. Do you see an example? Could others look toward YOU as the example?

As a part-time insurance agent, I get to know a wide variety of people, and I’ve learned through the years that people will always surprise you. Take, for example, just last week when I walked into the home of a family (father, mother, teenage son) to show them a policy just as mom was starting to prepare dinner. Fried chicken, green beans, homemade mac and cheese. The smells were wonderful as they wafted out of the kitchen. As I struck up conversation, I was surprised at what I learned. As the inviting smell of dinner got better, so did the reveal.

I learned that mom picked up ex-cons from the prison gate to halfway houses – their first encounter with someone from the outside to help them in their walk with Christ.

I learned the father mentored men who recently got out of prison, capturing their hearts and minds at that critical-juncture decision of forward or backward. He was a faith guide to them at a time when the cycle could break or continue. Then I found out he himself was an ex-con, and his mentoring was a legacy given from the disciple before him.

These are some amazing examples of faith mentoring. Look at your life and those around you and see where you might make a difference or grow right here at LJCC through joining a life group, finding a faith partner, or volunteering with children or youth.

For what I received, I passed on to you.
(1Cor 15:3)

The Spirit of God living in you is your power for living in God

The Spirit of God living in you is your power for living in God

After four hundred years in Egypt, the Jews were freed from slavery by the mighty hand of God. But immediately they were sent into the desert to wander – follow – a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Seven weeks after Passover, they camped below a mountain shrouded in clouds and smoke. Their leader went up the mountain, and then came back down holding God’s law, his face shining.

This strange, otherworldly story is the context of Pentecost. Like Steve was saying, Pentecost takes place fifty days after Jesus raised the cup and declared that His was the blood of the New Covenant. The day itself of Pentecost, when the Counselor came into our lives “as of the rushing of a mighty wind,” was the day the Jews there had gathered together to remember God giving Moses the Law.

The Passover becomes the crucifixion, and written code transforms into “new way of the Spirit.” In the most tangible way. On the very same date! We have a good God.

This story is a reminder God thinks that what He did on Pentecost is our new jumping-off point for who we are and how we do everything. Practically, here are things to keep in mind. When, as Steve said, our defenses are penetrated, remember that part of who is exposed is the indwelling Spirit of God. Acknowledge Him – acknowledging someone brings you up into relationship with them in that moment. This is who you are.

Make yourself responsive to His desire. The people on Pentecost spoke in tongues they did not know – we were reconciled in a way we hadn’t been since Babel – and Peter told the story of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures were fulfilled. Play your part in the fulfillment of all things, too. This is what you do.

The Spirit of God coming to be with us, now, is such good news. The early church celebrated their way through the fifty days from the Crucifixion to Pentecost. Let us walk in that same, growing “newness of life.”

What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Many of us remember being asked as kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It seemed so clear back then. Firemen, ballerinas, super heroes. Our active imaginations made the decision for us. But growing up leads us down another path of pondering – who am I and why am I here?

As Scott Schimmel pointed out on Sunday, “Disciples of Jesus thrive when they actively pursue their purpose.” Our identities as disciples of Christ are linked to that purpose. Find that purpose, and God’s mission won’t be far away. But many of us struggle to get there. How do you figure out your purpose?

As Scott pointed out, the process may take some time. But the steps are pretty clear.

Meditate. Think about where you’ve come from and sense God’s presence in your thoughts. Without solitude, we’re thrashed by the dictates of society.

Involve Others. Reach out to those you know best for feedback and reflection. How do they see you? You may discover talents you never knew you had.

Pray. Ask Jesus to help you identify your purpose by understanding what you’re designed for.

Discover your SHAPE. It’s a special tool on the LJCC website to help you identify why God created you. The results will show you how your unique talents fit in to God’s mission.

Take SHAPE

Attitude Is Everything

Attitude Is Everything

I have a coffee cup that says “Attitude Is Everything.” It was given to me by a friend as a birthday gift years ago. At first glance, I thought “Oh, that’s so corny.” But it did serve a purpose. I put it on my desk at work and used it as a pencil cup. And — much to my surprise — through the years the real meaning of that phrase has seeped in. Attitude IS everything.

In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor Steve talked about how we as disciples of Christ thrive when we live generously. What empowers us to become generous? It’s our attitude.

When you really think about it, “attitude” is one of those words that encompasses a volume of meaning. Attitude means thought, action, behavior, belief. It touches every part of our day, really. Do you wake up grouchy in the morning? Maybe it’s your attitude. Do you feel like your workout is going to be a winner? That’s a positive attitude. Do you kiss your kids or your spouse goodbye in the morning? You’re showing a loving attitude.

From the moment we wake up in the morning to our last actions before we lay our heads down to sleep, our attitude shapes us. It shapes our reaction to things and it shapes how others perceive us.

How can you shape your attitude to become more generous? You can distribute your wealth, your time, and your energy more effectively to help others. Notice I didn’t say empty your pockets. It’s more about emptying yourself so that God can fill you with a generosity of spirit. Living rich in God is a state of mind. Our attitude can motivate us to be generous. And as Pastor Steve pointed out, our generosity is motivated by love.

“Silver or gold I do not have. But what I do have, I give you.” Acts 3:6

When Bridges Fail

When Bridges Fail

In his latest sermon on how to thrive as disciples of Christ, Pastor Steve talked about becoming metaphorical bridge builders, acting as peacemakers to those at odds with each other. But sometimes bridges fail, right? First let’s take a look at some examples of actual bridge failures:

  • The 2007 collapse of Minnesota’s I-35W bridge killed 13 people because of weak gusset plates that were part of a “non-redundant” design. This meant if any major component failed, the bridge was bound to collapse. As a result, multiple fail-safes were built so that no single part alone bears the weight.
  • In 1989, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed due to the Loma Prieta quake, shearing several connective bolts and killing one person. After that, engineers reexamined older bridges throughout the state and strengthened or rebuilt them.
  • In 1973, the West Side Highway in New York collapsed. It was falling apart due to lack of maintenance and 130,000 travelers each day. Now modern sensors measure roadway strain and send regular alerts.

Could these disasters have been averted? Yes, if someone had been paying attention. If we translate that metaphor to our daily lives, how can we nurture our relationship bridges that might be suffering from wear and tear?

  1. Take a look at your family bridge. Leave a love note for your spouse or praise your child for a job well done.
  2. Take a look at your neighborhood bridges. Reach out to a senior neighbor who may need your help.
  3. Take a look at your community bridges. Bolster a bridge you see crumbling from someone else’s actions.

Look inside to see where your own support beams may be giving way. Think about how you might fortify those beams with grace and love as a bridge-building disciple of Christ.

Practicing your Emotional Destination

Practicing your Emotional Destination

To comment on Steve’s sermon this week, let me advocate for three things in our emotional life.

Wasn’t that a great, “amen and amen” sermon by the way?

Thing One:

Be emotional. The process goes like this. God made you and me. “For we are created in Christ Jesus.” So we bear His identity. As Steve said so well, we are emotional. We are His, ergo being emotional is part of our identity and purpose.

Be sad. Be mad. Be grieved. Be scared. Be vulnerable. Be gentle and kind. Be who you were made to be. “Do the good work which God has prepared.” It’s right here.

Thing Two:

Be emotional in the right way – be emotional for the good purpose. Our emotionality is possibly the most wayward failure to launch part of life right now. We have fearfully developed/overfilled schedules, ambitions for our children from before they are born, financial plans extending out to our dying days, and often almost no compelling sense whatsoever of what our anger, fear, grief and anxiety are for. Our culture’s point of emotional culmination, happiness and self-glorification, is a rip-off, because so many of us are unhappy and nobody except maybe our mothers think we are glorious.

Now there is a stunning destination for emotional life – Jesus Christ. His emotional life was the most beautiful life we’ve ever had. His emotional life changed everything. His feeling is the blessing, blessing us all. If your anger is destructive, be reformed by His indignation at evil and commitment to justice. When your fear is crippling, come to the shade of the Father’s mighty wing the way He does. Whenever you haven’t seen your emotional life change, don’t stop moving into Christ until you do.

Thing Three:

Practice your emotional life. Practice is a maligned part of our faith, which is a bummer because it is the most predictable way in life to experience transformation. There is no such thing as a natural-born surgeon or teacher or pianist or financial advisor. And there is no such thing as a natural-born, really good emotional life either.

Good practice is one part knowing what’s going on – who you are – where you’re going – the telos – and what the next step is – our daily manna provision of grace and provision of identity and good work from the Lord. Take Steve’s encouragement:  He is the One “with all authority” to bring about life – emotional life of the kind we the creation are so eagerly waiting for.

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