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 ( 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.


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.

Where’s My Prize?

Where’s My Prize?

As Christians, we’re called to be alive in Christ. But how do we do that? As guest pastor Bruce Baker said in his sermon on Sunday – the second sermon in the THRIVE series — our Christian ethics shouldn’t be about following a rule book, or deserving a prize for a job well done. But how many of us think this way? “I’m being a good Christian. So where’s my prize?“

Some of us may think the prize is money, or possessions, or respect or recognition. All good Christians are successful in these ways, right? Not so fast. Although the world holds these things in esteem, it’s not what Christ values as the way to live your life.

Being alive in Christ is all about doing. In Luke 10:37, after reciting the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” As Pastor Bruce pointed out, doing is the real meaning of Christian ethics. When we let the water of Christ’s grace flow over us and in us, we become alive in Christ. When we show grace to the people around us, we are thriving. God promises to meet our needs if we live our lives by doing.

God wants us to turn away from our drive to attain money and climb the ladder in our careers. He wants us to do good works, show mercy and love to others, and the rest will fall into place. Being alive now is our prize. When we have Christ, we have everything.

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

Thrive, Not Survive

Thrive, Not Survive

Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” So how are you thriving in life? How do you know when you’re there – thriving – instead of just surviving?

Scott Schimmel explored the meaning of thriving in the launch of the sermon series called THRIVE on Sunday. The word “thrive” means to grow vigorously, to prosper, to progress toward or reach a goal. If we are rooted in Christ, we thrive. Proverbs 16:3 tells us “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

Thriving means using our God-given gifts to help and lift up others in the world. It means being present in the moment to see what God is putting before you. It means acknowledging the flow in life instead of trying to control it.

There are small ways to thrive. Look up from your to-do list and smile at a stranger. Share a laugh over something silly. Seek out passionate people. Read Scripture with them.

In order to thrive as disciples of Christ, we first have to know what we’ve got. In order to recognize your strengths and talents, think about what gives you the most satisfaction and joy in life. Then ask your friends, family, and colleagues what they see as your unique talents. These steps should help you on your discipleship journey.

And remember, have faith that you’re never traveling alone. Jesus is always there beside you.

Gateway to the Heart

Gateway to the Heart

In his Easter sermon, Pastor Steve talked about how God’s greatest miracle is entering a human heart. He urged us all to have an open heart to allow Jesus in. But the reality is most of us have a gate around our hearts. Maybe a chain-link fence and a few padlocks. We often feel like we need to protect our hearts from the “dangers” of the outside world. Heartbreak, sadness, disappointment, unfulfillment. The list goes on. So, what would it take to unlock your heart?

Fear is what locks up our hearts. We usually react to fear in three ways:  Fight (angry dukes up), flight (run away and hope it doesn’t chase you), and freeze (that’s where the paralysis comes in).

The Greek word for fear is deilia, which means cowardice or timidity. The word is never used in a positive light in the Bible.

But we can use our fear to move us closer to Christ if we unlock the gate. We can do this through prayer, asking Christ to change our fear to hope, to simply allow Him in to do His work in us. It’s as simple as that.

But we have to let him in first. Instead of feeling in denial, paralyzed or angry, acknowledge your fear and ask God to help. Hand Jesus the key, and the gateway to your heart will be opened.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13