Spiritual Formation

Approaching God With Confidence

a-place2wrshpIt seems almost daily that I am hearing of great hurt in the lives of those around me. Families on the brink of divorce, battles with cancer, loss of loved ones…the list goes on and the occurrences seem to be on the increase. For those struggling, each prayer request is unique…seeking relief from the pain, anger at the loss, crying out for peace in the turmoil, understanding from the trouble, strength in the fear and uncertainty. Yet for those that know the Lord, despite the affliction, many are comforted by the One on the Throne. Although we all have our own stress and strain, perhaps not as deep as others, we are assured that our requests can be made to God and that we can seek refuge in the One who created and knows us. He knows both our strengths and weaknesses and yet he still invites us to come boldly to the throne.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Another translation says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 NLT

Isn’t that great news! That we can come boldly to the throne with confidence, remembering who we are approaching, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient God. He knows our needs and loves us so much that he offers us his mercy and grace.

I often can’t even begin to understand the suffering of those around me. Nor can I imagine enduring my own stress and strain without my Savior, but I am confident in the One on the Throne and I know that I can seek him with confidence in my time of need. I am comforted in the fact that I can boldly call upon him in prayer lifting up those who need additional comfort and support.  I can seek Him with sureness, knowing that he hears each request, sees each tear and feels each heartache. It is with this assurance that I know I will receive his mercy and grace. What a blessed assurance!

He Will Reign

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15, NIV

imagesI love this verse, from which Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus originates, because of the definitive message that God is in charge and a day is coming where we will be united with all the saints in a glorious celebration of eternal life. And I look forward to the day when we all live in the real life Hallelujah Chorus. Where pain, sorrow and death are no more.

In these verses, we read that God has won the battle over evil and when our struggles will be over. In the meantime we have our work before us. To know what that is, we have to stay connected through worship, prayer, Bible reading and in community.

For the day is coming and the time is short. God’s kingdom is at hand…now is not the time to stop and wait. Now is the time to press on and show our joy and rejoicing with all those we meet, so that all will hear of the name of Jesus.

Love Builds Up

tumblr_m98r37c2F01qdxd12o1_500We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. – 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NIV

As Christians, we might be well qualified to give the right doctrinally correct response in any given circumstance, but as Paul tells us, our response needs to be done in love. Do we genuinely care about the person we are giving advice to? Or are we only interested in how wise and clever our advice sounds? Paul tells us knowledge alone puffs us up and makes us proud. If we genuinely want to help someone, we need to do it in love.

Rick Warren often quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” One of the best ways we show we care is by listening. Mostly people can work out for themselves what they should or shouldn’t do. What people really need is a sounding board so they can talk through the issues with someone who is prepared to listen objectively and then allow the person to come to their own conclusions.

The Amplified Bible puts it like this: “Yet mere knowledge causes people to be puffed up…, but love…edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to full stature]. If we respond with love, not information, we encourage others to grow into their full potential.”

A 6 X 6 Plan

imagesAs a leader, what do you struggle with everyday? For most of us, our answer would be time! However, at the 2012 Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels challenged leaders to consider that its really our work habits that leaders struggle with on a day to day basis.

Watch as Bill Hybels talks about an exercise that helps his daily work habits. We can’t sprint for 6 months, but we can for 6 weeks. What would your 6×6’s be?

:: The Gift of Peace

Peace is one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given to us! In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the peace we would experience upon Christ’s arrival. On any given day, we experience many negative emotions that will try to rule our hearts. This happens when we spend too much time being anxious, angry or fearful. But the good news is that we have the power to choose between letting our emotions rule us or letting the Prince of Peace fill our hearts and mind with tranquility and thankfulness.

The babe in a manger reminds us that God cares about us and wants to change our lives. When He works in the lives of his people we see love, faithfulness, righteousness and peace.  The name Prince of Peace reminds us that only through Jesus will we truly have peace of mind. Christ can indeed bring peace to any situation. The most difficult circumstance, the most ruthless enemy, the deepest pain – none of these are beyond Christ’s reach.

As you worship this Christmas, open your heart, soul, mind and body to his perfect peace. Let the peace of God’s presence transform you today and every day. He can calm your heart and mind. No one brings peace like Jesus.

Generational Curses?

I was recently asked this question regarding Exodus 34:6-7, which reads, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) The question was concerning verse 7, about punishment for third and fourth generations, and whether this changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Here is my response…

There are no generational curses in the life of a Christian. In Jeremiah 31:29-30, God promises us that the children will no longer pay for the father’s mistakes; but, we should also remain in covenant with Him (Ezekiel 18). However, there are spiritual consequences to our rebellion towards God, and it is OUR rebellion, not our ancestors, that is relevant here. However, I do believe we are prone to certain generational sins, because of how we were raised. However, on judgment day, everyone shall give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:12), and for this reason, we need to accept responsibility for our own sin.

In addition, we shouldn’t be quick to blame our personal hardship on the generational sins of our forefathers either. A good example is found in John 9:1-3 where Jesus encounters a blind man who was blind from birth. The text reads, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” So in Jesus’ words, sickness, disease or suffering does not automatically mean there is sin in the camp. Therefore, we should not blame our misfortune or our family’s misfortune on the sins of our ancestors. We alone are answerable for our own sins.

Why Am I Never Satisfied?

A glimpse into Week # 6 of our Why? series curriculum…

God has wired each of us with a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by Him. Even when things are going well, there is always a little gnawing feeling within, asking “Is this all there is?” In Ecclesiastes 1:1 -11 & 12:1 -8 we read the bitter ramblings of one of the richest men who ever lived, King Solomon. Although he was enormously wealthy and powerful, and had many women, ultimately he found life meaningless.  The more knowledge he gained, the more he realized that there was nothing new under the sun. The wealthier he became, the more money he wanted. As he aged, he grew depressed at the failings of his once vigorous body. All that he had worked for his entire life seemed like an illusion.

Today there are more than twice as many products and services available as there were ten years ago. But are we twice as happy as we were ten years ago? The pursuit of more only leads to further emptiness. However, there is a different reality and Jesus described it best, “It is more blessed to give, than to receive!”

Here is what Pastor Doyle has to say…

Why Should I Belong?

A glimpse into Week # 5 of our Why? series curriculum…

If we understand that our purpose in life is to glorify God and that we are gifted to serve the body of Christ, then logically we’re going to commit to a body of believers. However, the reality is that many of us still live in isolation. We wonder if we truly have anything to offer the body of Christ. We ask ourselves, “Will I be accepted?” We wonder if we really have anything to offer. Yet, the very thing we fear is the thing we need the most. God did not call us to live in isolation, but in community with one another. Because we cannot see God, we need to see and experience God through his people.

In Acts 2: 42 – 47, Luke portrays the lives of the early disciples worshiping and learning about God together, sharing meals and their possessions while caring for each other. They witnessed miracles done in Jesus’ name and were filled with awe at what God was doing in their lives as they lived in community with fellow believers and invited others to follow Christ with them.

God is love and because of that, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational, and therefore he identifies himself in very relational terms: Father, Son, and Spirit. In fact, God Himself exists in community, and gives us the perfect pattern for how life is meant to be lived in relationship with one another.

Here’s Pastor Doyle’s response to the question…

10 Things I’ll Miss Most About SoCal

Here are 10 things I’ll miss most about SoCal…

1. Our SeaCoast Grace Church Family – Our decision to move back to Sacramento was a difficult one, because we love our church family! There are so many who have welcomed us into their lives, blessed our family and who we will truly miss.

2. Grace Christian School – The staff and faculty at GCS rock! They love their jobs, love their kids and excel at their profession! Having Zach at GCS these past four years has been one of the biggest blessings!

3. Disneyland – Being annual pass holders at Disneyland for three straight years was an amazing experience. Even as locals, whenever we went to Disneyland, we always thought we were on vacation. And every night we were reminded that we lived 8 miles from the Happiest Place on Earth as we heard their fireworks echo through the valley.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Watching Mike Trout play this year has been crazy fun! And I will miss watching Baseball America’s 2012 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year play! This guy is a future Hall of Famer and it was so fun to watch him do his thing and Jared Weaver pitch!

5. SoCal Beaches – We loved hiking Crystal Cove in Newport and kicking it in Seal Beach. This past summer was probably our best summer at the beach.

6. SoCal Weather – Where else could it be 80 degrees in December? With typical 70-80 weather year around, we will miss the weather big time. Although, I won’t miss the May grey and June gloom! They never mention those months in the SoCal marketing brochures.

7. OC Small Group Pastors Cohort – I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of Small Group pastoral leadership and I will greatly miss the creativity and ideas that these men bring to the table.

8. Spiritual Mentors – Wow! It has been a blast to reconnect with some of my former spiritual mentors since living in SoCal! In addition, I have been privileged to meet some other wise men who have spoken into my life over the last few years! Thanks Tom, JP, Lyle, Rob, Mark, Michael, Dennis, Ed and Roger. You are amazing men of faith. And I have been blessed by your investment in my life.

9. Amazing Friends – I have met some amazing people since living in SoCal! And I’ve been able to reconnect with some old friends from college that has been such a blessing! In addition, we’ve so enjoyed our visits from NorCal friends and hosting them at our home. Fun times.

10. Proximity to Fun Getaways – We’ll miss our proximity to Palm Springs and San Diego. They’ve been fun places to escape to for a few days.

The Power of Community

This past weekend we showed this video as part of our weekend services at SeaCoast Grace! I’m so inspired by these women who have courageously walked through a difficult season and found the hope and healing they needed, because of their willingness to face the pain and disappointment in their lives, in a safe community with others. Here are their stories…

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