Community

Creating Margin

In reading the recent headlines, I believe that our society is suffering from a societal epidemic: overload! We’re exhausted and hurting, struggling to keep up with life. We feel distressed, but we’re not clear why. We’re besieged by anxiety and fatigue; and our relationships and bodies are suffering because of it. The flood of daily events seems beyond our control. The bottom line is that we are overloaded, and we’re living on the edge.

Today our stress levels are unprecedented and studies have reported that 80% of Americans need to reduce stress in their lives. Change, debt, hurry, noise and complexity all contribute. Because of a rapidly changing job market, we’re more insecure. Because of the breakdown of the family, we’re more alone.

This past month at SeaCoast Grace Church we talked about the need to create margin in our lives by honoring the Sabbath, creating moments of sanctuary with God, and subtracting the things that keep us distracted in our pursuit of him. Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Without margin, especially in the key areas of emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances, any sense of well-being is unlikely.

In the past, margin was a normal part of people’s lives. They lived on farms. They had time to help a neighbor and attend social events. And they didn’t have all the shiny things that distract us from resting. Unfortunately, what was designed to make our lives simpler has only made it more complex. We’re dialed in 24/7 and have so much information at our fingertips. But, are we really better off?

So if you find that your emotional energy is gone, how do you get it back? Here are six things to consider:

  1. Cultivate social support systems –  Some people fill us, others drain us. We need to intentionally develop relationships that nurture us, with people who understand us and care about us.
  2. Get a pet – Pets are loyal and often affectionate—just the kind of things that increase our emotional reserves.
  3. Reconcile relationships – Broken relationships are huge emotional drains. Forgive and let go!
  4. Rest – Try to set aside time regularly to just “be still” and let God be God!
  5. Laugh – Nothings recharges my battery like a good laugh. Spend time with friends or doing things that make you laugh. Nothing like a good I Love Lucy episode for me!
  6. Create appropriate boundaries –  We need to be able to say “no” at times, so we can say “yes” to God’s best!

Day of God & American Independence

Back in 1986, I spent the 4th of July in the Soviet Union. I remember that day like yesterday! And for the last 26 years, I have reflected back on it with fond memories. You see, on that day, a Soviet college student named Alex and I met on the streets of Leningrad and struck up a conversation about America and God. Alex so wanted to be an American. He had heard so much about this land of freedom. And despite the Soviet propaganda of the time, he believed America was a land of hope.

Being that he wanted to be an American, I mentioned to Alex that on every 4th of July, America pauses to give thanks to God for their freedom and independence. We talked about how America’s freedom came with a sacrifice; and we eventually talked about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of everyone in the world, in order to know and experience freedom in Christ. It was a long conversation, one that led way into the morning hours. In fact, with the white nights of now St. Petersburg, we were completely unaware of how late it was and almost missed getting back over the bridge, in order to get back to our hotel for the night.

Before meeting Alex, he had never heard of God. But he was so intrigued by our conversation, especially after showing him our American currency, which says, “In God We Trust,” that he was willing to make certain sacrifices in order to engage in a conversation about spiritual things. That night as the taxi dropped us off at the hotel, Alex thanked us for spending the day with him. And as we parted ways, his last words to me where, “Today will always be known to me as the Day of God and American Independence!”

Twenty-six years later, I still remember my day with Alex and pause to pray for him. I don’t know if he ultimately got to America. I don’t know if he remembers our conversation. I don’t know what God is doing in his life. But God does. And I hope that one day in heaven, there will be a man named Alex who taps me on the shoulder and says, “I never forgot the Day of God and American Independence!”

Happy 4th of July!

The Power of Community

Eugene Peterson, known for his work on The Message, was asked to speak to the question of why everyone should consider being in a small group. His response, profoundly expresses the power of community:

“We learn best when we’re learning with others. A small group is the perfect setup for discussion. Truth is ambiguous. It’s not clear. If you want to absolutely clear language you have to use mathematics. That’s the only absolutely clear language we have. Everything else is subject to tone, inflection, context and relationship between people. A group is where you can work out those ambiguities through discussion. The way you get the gospel is to forgive someone, help someone, build a relationship with someone. It has relationship in it. That takes practice. It goes beyond just knowing something.”

1980’s Film Alphabet

As a small group champion, I am always looking for fun ways to connect people and help break the ice. I recently stumbled upon some fun guessing games from graphic design artist Stephen Wildish, who has come up with some awesome minimalist alphabet posters featuring classic movies from the 80’s, 90’s and other film genres.

If your small group is looking to have some fun, print up this poster and divide your group into teams and see how many answers they can come up within a few minutes.

In the meantime, how many 80’s movies can you name from the poster above? Check to see if you’re right using the answer key provided after the break. Don’t peak!

Bearing Fruit

This past weekend, I had the privilege of co-teaching with our Senior Pastor Doyle Surratt! In our current series, Grow, we’ve been talking about how to grow spiritually, by unpacking many of the verses that refer specifically to bearing fruit and that barrow illustrations from agriculture. In the video below, I unpack the Parable of the Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9 and discuss the conditions necessary for greater spiritual fruitfulness in our lives. Have a listen and rejoice in the reality that God is for you!

Flourishing in Community

God made you to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we were made to flourish with him and with others in order to produce blessing beyond ourselves. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be in community with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

  1. God… A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow his Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others.
  2. Wise Counselors… A relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey; these are individuals you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom from and get perspective from.
  3. Close Friends… Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, be sarcastic with, play golf with, surf or do whatever with.
  4. A Close Confidant… Either a spouse or a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way. After all, life is truly better together.

The Millennial Teenager

A few months ago, I posted an image from the people at MBAOnline showing what literally happens in a 24 hour life cycle on the internet. It was one of my most popular posts and generated some fun comments. Well the folks of OnlineSchools.com have taken the idea a step further and narrowed down the field to show us what life looks like technologically for the Millennial Teenager, who literally has no awareness of what life was like before cell phones and the internet.

What’s interesting to me are the stats at the end of this image that show the significant differences between heavy and light media users in their overall satisfaction and performance in life. What’s your take? And as a parent how do you monitor the numbers of hours your teen is connected to technology?

45 Things

Here’s 45 things you might not know about me…

  1. I was born and raised in San Mateo, CA, just 20 miles south of San Francisco.
  2. I trusted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior in August ’80 at Camp Sugar Pine in Oakhurst, CA.
  3. My first official job was at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in San Mateo.
  4. My first car was a ’67 Volkswagen Bug. Deep red with a sun roof.
  5. I was a DJ at KCSB and KGFT while in college at UC Santa Barbara.
  6. I traveled to the Soviet Union during the summers of ’86 & ’87, in the era of communism.
  7. I was interrogated by the KGB twice, while traveling in the Soviet Union.
  8. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Communication Studies.
  9. I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ after graduating from college and served with them for 4 years.
  10. I met Jennifer while serving with Campus Crusade for Christ at Sacramento State.
  11. I love to dance!
  12. I was in five productions of the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church San Mateo.
  13. I sang the National Anthem at the Houston Astrodome.
  14. I have been part of the live studio audience for Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan (click Conan link to see me).
  15. I was the first customer at In n Out Burger in Folsom when it opened in January 2009.
  16. I graduated from Western Seminary with Honors in 2003.
  17. I love baseball!
  18. My favorite National League team is the San Francisco Giants.
  19. My favorite American League team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem.
  20. My favorite color is blue.
  21. I wish Seinfeld was still on the air.
  22. My uncle, Billy Hardwick, was a professional bowler and Bowler of the Year in ’65 & ’66.
  23. My middle name in Allen. It was also my grandfather’s middle name.
  24. I love Mexican food.
  25. My weakness is ice cream!
  26. My favorite ice cream is Roselani Kona Mud Pie (only available in Hawaii).
  27. My ’93 Honda Accord has 245,000 miles on it.
  28. I was a traveling sales rep for DaySpring Cards, a subsidiary of Hallmark.
  29. When I need a good laugh, I watch I Love Lucy!
  30. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to college to pursue a career in broadcasting.
  31. My favorite concert of all time was the Amy Grant Unguarded tour at the Santa Barbara Amphitheater.
  32. My favorite section of the Bible is John 13-17, known as the Upper Room Discourse.
  33. My favorite book of the Bible is Romans.
  34. My son Zachary’s name is derived from Zechariah, which means “God remembered,” as we were told by the doctors that we would never be able to have children.
  35. The first president I voted for was Ronald Reagan in ’84. Reagan won every state but Minnesota that year.
  36. I was an early adopter of Twitter, opening my account December 19, 2007. I have “tweeted” almost 3,000 times since then.
  37. I love reading the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to my son Zach.
  38. My favorite vacation spot is Hawaii! I’ve spent two summers, my sabbatical and celebrated my honeymoon there.
  39. I have a file of encouraging notes and letters I’ve received over the years. I read them when I need a little perspective or encouragement.
  40. I love my wife’s blackberry pie!
  41. I love to BBQ!
  42. I met the entire cast of Leave it to Beaver back in the 1980’s.
  43. I enjoy playing racquetball and golf.
  44. I want to write a book someday.
  45. I love Disneyland!

The goal of this post is to build bridges of commonality and interests. So please take a minute and tell me something unique about you!

Rising from the Ashes

Last Tuesday morning, a fire erupted at the offices of Flood Church in San Diego, causing an estimated $1 million in damages to the building and to the churches resources just days away from the celebration of Easter! My buddy Matt Hammett is the Lead Pastor of Flood Church, a church he founded 12 years ago. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years and as I watched this story unfold over Facebook and through the media, I have to say that I am proud to know this man and to see how this church triumphed in the face of adversity.

When I first found out about the news of the building on Tuesday, I immediately texted Matt and told him that I was confident that God would bring beauty from the ashes. Confident in God’s ability to do something wonderful in the midst of this loss, I was so encouraged to learn what God did over the last week.

Here’s a few of things that God did through his people:

  1. The sister of church of Flood, College Avenue Baptist Church, immediately opened up office space for Flood to take up temporary residency and to continue in its operations.
  2. The church had a tremendous outpouring of volunteer support and the Easter services went on without a hitch.
  3. Flood had it’s largest gathering in it’s 12 year history, with over 2,500 people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

In addition, as I read emails from Matt, watched video blogs, and read articles in the news, I was so encouraged by this churches priorities. The message was clear, the church is not about a building, it’s about God’s people. Their was no saddness in their message or tone. They weren’t living in the past. They were forward thinking. Even still prioritizing their plans to put together care packages and send financial resources to their church partner in Haiti this next weekend.

God truly does “give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Way to go Flood Church!

Empty Promises

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I want to encourage you to read the newest book from Pete Wilson, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, which released yesterday. While I haven’t read it yet, I have read some of the reviews, watched the trailer and thoroughly enjoyed his last book, Plan B. Even American Idol contestant Colton Dixon tweeted yesterday about the book saying, “I’m reading Empty Promises right now on my Nook, it’s amazing. can’t put it down!”

Here’s what Pete Wilson has to say about it…

This book is incredibly important to me because I think one of the biggest problems in Christianity today is that we mainly focus on “sin management.” We want to edit behaviors instead of change hearts, but I think Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t interested in us spending our time trying to perfect external Christianity.

We want to pretend like God just wants to rearrange a little furniture in the house or maybe dust it up a bit. But if you look out the window there’s God with a wrecking ball. You see the issues we face in our life go down to the very foundation.

Sure we can tell you…don’t be greedy, don’t be self preoccupied, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t be power hungry, don’t be addicted to approval. But what if we asked what it is about your heart that makes you want to chase after those things?

This book is not just about sin. It’s about the sin beneath the sin. It’s about what’s fundamentally broken in the human heart and how all of that can be healed in and through the person of Jesus.

Sounds like transformational stuff! I can’t wait to read it and hopefully you will to. You can also check out this video trailer about the book as well.

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