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

The Savior in San Diego

The Savior in San Diego

Are you ready to welcome Jesus into your city? Imagine Jesus coming into San Diego during Holy Week — exotic palm fronds waving in the ocean breeze, blue sky and sun shining down on cresting waves to welcome Him. How would you greet our Savior? What would you say?

We learn in Matthew 21 that people cut branches from trees and spread them on the road as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. We learn in Luke 19 that Jesus wept over coming into the city, overcome with passion while knowing Jerusalem was a tinderbox caught up in so much conflict.

Every city has similar strengths and weaknesses. For “America’s Finest,” we have Balboa Park and the Zoo. We’re proud of our amazing beaches and great sunsets. But as in any fine city, people sometimes feel disconnected and lonely no matter what surrounds them. So what would Jesus want to know about San Diego?

He’d want to know what we’re doing to help those less fortunate than us — how we’re reflecting the lessons learned by His disciples about loving and serving one another on Maundy Thursday … how we’re pondering His death on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins on Good Friday … how we celebrate His victory over sin and death on Easter.

Let’s walk alongside Jesus during this Holy Week and pray that San Diegans will recognize Him as Savior and receive Him as King. Use the power of your faith quietly, like the gentle tides rolling in, to transform the hearts and minds of those around you during this holiest of weeks.

Embrace Your Inner Child

Embrace Your Inner Child

Dr. Seuss, the inimitable children’s author, once wrote, “Adults are just outdated children.” As adults, we have to conduct ourselves accordingly. But when you really think about it, all the ways you were as a child are still within you. Think back, look for them, and there they are — waiting for a small sliver of opportunity to rise up once again. But how often do we call upon them in our daily lives with Christ?

Pastor Steve’s sermon on Sunday talked about the value of children. From Matthew 18, he quoted Jesus as telling his disciples, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Children are trusting, spontaneous, quickly forgiving, truthful, curious. These are all wonderful qualities to embrace. Yet as adults, many of us choose to bury them in a pile of self-importance and a sense of control, assuming they just won’t hold up in the real world. But is that really true to what Jesus taught? Let’s look at a few:

Trusting. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all trust Jesus to lead us in our lives, instead of mapping out our own course?

Spontaneous. How about if we took a minute to brighten someone’s day or communicated with a child?

Quickly forgiving. How many of us hold grudges against others for actions that happened long ago?

Truthful. How often are we truthful not only with others, but more importantly, with ourselves?

Curious. Aren’t you curious what God has in store for you? What if it’s better than anything you can imagine?

Embrace your inner child. Go deeper to see how you can love and serve Jesus today.

CLEAN HANDS = CLEAN HEART

CLEAN HANDS = CLEAN HEART

We are all granted the right to “free speech.” But when does free speech cross the line?

Pastor Steve spoke of the Pharisees’ judgment against Christ and His disciples on Sunday from Matthew 15, and how the ceremonial washing of hands was not being adhered to among the disciples. Jesus was quite blunt in His rebuke saying “Why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Jesus goes on to say that it’s not so much whether or not these rituals are performed – like eating kosher food, for example – but how our actions and our words communicate to the outside world what’s really going on in our hearts.

So how does this relate to our present lives? It’s the same concept; it’s just a different style of communication. Today, the evilness of communication comes out through slander and gossip, the passing on of negative information that has the power to darkly influence others and create undue judgment in those that hear it.

There are many seemingly innocuous names for this in our present time – water-cooler talk, office news, the latest buzz. Sometimes it’s as innocent as the latest football game scores or the last episode of a TV show. But when communication turns to “Hey did you hear what … “ –THAT crosses into the area of gossip and slander. As Pastor Steve pointed out, the only reason you might want to bring up the plight or misfortune or circumstance of someone else is when you have a solution to offer. Otherwise, it’s plain old evil speak.

Whenever we see one of those all-too-common signs about washing our hands, perhaps we should think of the Lord’s message while washing our hands: Clean out your hearts to offer solutions and reconciliations in the world. Let it be a holy signal. Clean Hands = Clean Heart.

Psalm 51:10 says it well: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

We’ve all been there. Sitting in front of our birthday cake, candles ablaze, our mind racing with excitement as we make our wish before blowing out the candles. As a child, the wishes were simple — a new bike or computer game, maybe even a new pet. As an adult, the choices get more complicated. What if they came true? What if those wishes turned out to be bigger and deeper than you ever imagined?

You’ve heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.” Many attribute this to an old Chinese proverb, although the exact origin is fuzzy. But it applies to all of us in our walk with Christ.

As Scott Schimmel pointed out in his sermon on Sunday, March 19th, when God takes us to a new place, it’s usually way more than we asked for. We might think, “What has God done to me now? I’m just trying to be faithful to you. And you gave me this?” Scott pointed to Matthew 14: “Jesus said do not be afraid, take courage.” When God takes you to the harder place, he reveals more of Himself to you. And through that process, we learn more about the depth of our own courage and faith.

I’m reminded of the story of the inspiring preacher, Norman Vincent Peale. When he was in seminary, his own professor accused him of using his shyness as an excuse. “You better change the way you think about yourself, Peale, before it’s too late. That’s all. You may go.”

Peale was angry, hurt, and resentful, but knew what his professor said was true. But he didn’t beg God to change him. Instead, he asked God to help him see himself as a person who could do great things in life. God listened, and he granted him more ability to inspire others in faith than he ever thought possible.

What’s holding you back? For many of us, it’s the fear of getting more than we can handle. But the Lord will always see to it that our trials do not overcome our faith. Look at Romans 8:38 – 39: “I am convinced that . . . [nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Raising a Modern-Day Knight Class for Dads!

Raising a Modern-Day Knight Class for Dads!

My son, Sebastian, is 8 years old. As his dad, I knew I would wield a powerful influence over the direction of his life and how he began his walk with Christ. I read the book called Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis and wanted to share what I learned with other fathers going through the same journey by facilitating another round of the six-week study that accompanies the book.

The study sessions get dads together to share their stories of fatherhood – their achievements as well as concerns – and grow together to make more purposeful and deliberate investments in the spiritual lives of their sons. The study focuses on four cornerstones of behavior, as outlined in the book:

  1. Reject Passivity.
    Learn how to be proactive with your son to engage culture and society in godly ways.
  2. Accept Responsibility.
    Show your son how to be accountable for his actions in life — the buck stops here.
  3. Lead Courageously.
    Learn to be bold and courageous in your faith and pass that onto your son.
  4. Seek a Greater Reward.
    Don’t shoot for just the fat paycheck, the fancy house and the nice car. Seek your greatest treasure in heaven.

As dads, we need not feel like lone rangers in our parenting, so we work on finding the common spirit that exists among us to inspire enthusiasm, devotion, and a strong regard for the honor of fatherhood.

The study is only the beginning though. In the near future, LJCC dads and ministry leaders plan to apply the principles and techniques from the book and study in creative, challenging, and meaningful ways. Stay tuned for more information on a Father/Son camping trip in August 2017.

As stated in Proverbs 17:6, “The glory of sons is their fathers.” Learn what it means to be a man and how to instill the most powerful qualities in your son.

Raising a Modern-Day Knight is for fathers of sons 6 years old and up. We meet for 6 Sundays (starting March 19) from 10:30 – 11:45 in Room 2 (not including Easter). You can purchase the book at the church or on Amazon.com.

What is the parable of your life?

What is the parable of your life?

What is the parable of your life?

Have you ever rendered your life into a parable? I hadn’t thought to do so until Steve was talking parables on Sunday, March 5, 2017. As he pointed out:  Jesus communicated some of the great mysteries of who He is and who we are. This rhetorical strategy of story and metaphor children naturally understand, but educated adult followers of Christ can miss completely.

Telling a parable was one of Jesus’ favorite ways of getting people to understand faith and follow Him. So let’s try it out.

Here are the three ground rules:

1) Make appropriate comparisons.

If I tell a parable about how my harried breakfast this morning is like my mind it may be too small to get at what’s going on in my life of faith. By the same token, if I’m comparing my professional work to the glory of the Milky Way I’ve probably gone a little too big. Jesus’ told parables about the building blocks of parties and the legal system and debts and children and work. The more “salt of the earth” in your stories, the better.

2) Start with what’s going on in your life, right now.

Jesus relayed His parables conversationally, in the context of what was being said to Him. He told parables to particular people, at particular times, for particular reasons.

3)  Make your parable about the same thing He did.

All of the parables Jesus told are about God and the relationship of God with His people. Tell a parable about the specific relationship God has with you and how that relationship is bearing out in your daily life.

Here’s my parable:
Trevor’s life is like a man deciding to go on a journey with a companion. He needed to go on the journey badly, because going on that particular adventure with this companion was his great desire. But he was scared of the wild animals and the deserts and running out of water. Most of all the man was afraid he just wouldn’t make it but would fail. The man’s companion was there with him when these things happened. Sometimes the man let his companion come to his aid, and sometimes he fled the trail and his companion and hid himself from the wild animals.

The parable tells a literal story of our spiritual walk with Jesus. When we feel fear or hopelessness, we shouldn’t flee but turn to God and follow him. In this Lenten season, write your own parable about life’s journey.  And remember what Christ told his disciples:  “You are lost but you are loved. The road is narrow, not wide. Follow me and I will guide you.” (Psalm 16:11)

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