Worship

Top 5 Memories from SeaCoast Grace

Today was my last weekend at SeaCoast Grace Church and I found myself both reflective and grateful for the memories and ministry I have enjoyed these last four years. As I was driving into services for my last time, I was recalling all the fun times and big moments, where I saw God clearly at work. And while there are too many to mention, I did manage to hone in on my Top 5 memories from SCG, so here they are, in no particular order…

1. Impact Seal Beach – Uniting four churches in Seal Beach to serve the City of Seal Beach was so awesome! We got the support of the city, the Chamber of Commerce and support of our congregations to beautify the city by painting signs, planting trees, and beautifying parks. It was a real testimony to the community, as four churches, from different denominations, became one church in action…loving God and loving others.

2. Beach Baptisms – One of the greatest thrills I have as a pastor is celebrating the courage of those who desire to publicly declare their faith in Jesus through the act of baptism. And while every baptism is meaningful, there are some real stand outs to me. One of those, was watching a woman, frail from battling cancer, step into the Pacific Ocean with such courage and determination, and witnessing a large fish jump out of the ocean, as she was being baptized. It was a beautiful reminder to us all that day, of how “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

3. Night of Worship – Anyone who was at the Night of Worship on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 would all agree, that was a special night! I wish we had this service on our Vimeo channel, because we all sensed the Spirit move in a significant way at SeaCoast that evening. It was truly incredible to watch God do His work, as we offered praise to Him!

4. Good Friday Services – Bringing back Good Friday services to the Cypress Campus was awesome! From packing out the East Auditorium the first year, to filling up the West Auditorium the second year; it truly was a blessing to see. And to be asked to speak at both of these services was an honor. I will also never forget my second Good Friday service as the Campus Pastor in Seal Beach, when I went to open the doors and there was a line of people waiting to get in and grab a seat. That was a first! And there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. Unreal!

5. Dad Life Video – We had a lot of fun as a pastoral team making this video. And it was just good to goof off with my peers and let everyone else see another side of us. It was a demanding two days of video and production, but so worth it. The video still makes me laugh.

There are so many other memories that flood into my head…Eight Great Summer Dates, watching my son do air guitar at the Seal Beach Campus Talent Show, praying with people to receive Jesus, crying with families that lost a loved one, and watching Zach grow to passionately love Jesus. These are the memories I will forever treasure. Thank you SeaCoast Grace Church for ministering God’s grace, for loving my family and for making a difference in my life! You will be missed.

Is the Tithe Biblical?

I recently received an email from someone calling the tithe an Old Testament practice that had no relevance to Christians under the New Covenant. Here’s what the email said in support of the author’s statement, “The Bible does not anywhere indicate that tithing is applicable or expected in our time at all. It was a system which was brought in following the exodus from Egypt and the forming of the children of Israel into a nation of their own.” Here was my response…

In looking at the Old Testament practice of tithing we see that Moses communicated to the children of Israel, we tithe “so that [we] may learn to revere the Lord [our] God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23). As we all know, learning to reverence the name of God is a timeless principle—as crucial today, as in the days of Moses. Long before Moses, the Bible records Jacob’s promise to God, “Of all that you give me, I will give you a tenth” (Genesis 28:22). Long after Moses, Jesus reaffirmed the practice of tithing (Matthew 23:23)—not for outward appearances, but as an outward expression of an inward reality.

In tithing, we learn the principles of Christian stewardship and what it means to depend upon our heavenly Father and less upon ourselves. Therefore, the tithe becomes our standard, not out of a sense of obligation or to earn God’s favor, but as an act of worship, recognizing that God owns it all. However, I would also assert that the New Testament raises the bar on this principle of stewardship, with 2 Corinthians 9:7 setting forth the central New Testament principle for giving, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” In other words, God loves a hilarious giver, which suggests that we are to strive to go beyond the tithe in our offerings. In fact, I happen to know of many great men and women of the faith, who give upwards to 60-90% of their income to the Lord, not out of obligation, but out of love and devotion to God, who they believe owns it all!

I do agree that nowhere in the New Testament does it designate a percentage of the income that a person should set aside, but it does say that our giving should be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Therefore, giving was strongly encouraged and a part of the New Testament system.  And because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:23, I believe that Jesus sets the “tithe” as the standard, but in no way should that limit us in our giving. For in looking at the Scriptures, we see that we can never out give God, and if we take this biblical practice seriously, I believe we will truly experience the blessing that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I also believe that as the church lives out this standard, which it is far from realizing, we will fulfill the Great Commission in our generation and meet the needs our communities and world (Matthew 28:18-20).

So what do you think? How might you add to the conversation?

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick, who lived in the Fifth Century, was originally from Britain. He was captured and shipped to Ireland, which at the time was a violent, dark land of warlords and Druids, and endured six years of servitude as a slave. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer, and he emerged with a strong, unbreakable bond with Jesus. He grew spiritually deep and wise, and gave himself in service to his Lord. He escaped the captors and returned to Britain. Later, God strongly led him to return to Ireland as a missionary. His courageous ministry, braving danger at every turn, ushered Christianity into the entire land. This powerful prayer is often attributed to him…

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

Why Am I Here?

The most basic question everyone faces in life is, “Why am I here?”  At the heart of this question is, “What is my purpose?” Self-help books suggest that we should look within, at our own desires and dreams. But in order to really understand the answer to this question, we must start with God and His eternal purposes for His creation. Real meaning and significance comes from understanding and fulfilling God’s purposes for putting us on earth. God created us to worship Him, and until we understand that, life just will not make sense. To discover your purpose, you must turn to God’s Word, not the world’s wisdom.  As the Scriptures remind us, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone”  (Ephesians 1:11).

In Acts 9:1- 9, Saul of Tarsus thought he knew his purpose on earth. He thought he was serving God by passionately opposing anyone who espoused ideas about God that differed from traditional Judaism. When Jesus got Saul’s attention, by temporarily blinding him on the road to Damascus, God gave him the name of Paul and called him into a new life of speaking boldly about Christ’s identity as Lord and Savior of the world.

Each of us is God’s workmanship, His masterpiece. God has crafted you with specific abilities, passions, and training to be used for His glory. Though you may be prepared and suited to be a mechanic, administrator, cart driver, or song writer, your purpose is to glorify to God.  And whatever it is, God wants you to do it well! Bring glory to God in all that you are and all that you do!

To go a little deeper on this subject, check out Pastor Doyle’s message from the weekend services…

God Uses Imperfect People

Think God can’t or won’t use you? Well, you’re in good company! If you think about it, there are many reasons why God shouldn’t have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter. But God doesn’t wait until we’re perfect to use us! In fact, the Scriptures are full of the stories of men and women, who in spite of their greed, lust, impulsiveness and imperfections, where used greatly by God to fulfill His purposes. Here’s a few examples, from the Bible’s who’s who:

Abraham lied
Sarah laughed at God’s promises
Moses stuttered
David’s armor didn’t fit
John Mark was rejected by Paul
Timothy had ulcers
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning
Jacob was a liar
David had an affair
Solomon was too rich
Jesus was too poor
Abraham was too old
David was too young
Peter was afraid of death
Lazarus was dead
John was self-righteous
Naomi was a widow
Paul was a murderer, so was Moses
Jonah ran from God
Miriam was a gossip
Gideon and Thomas both doubted
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal
Elijah was burned out
John the Baptist was a loudmouth
Martha was a worry-wort
Noah got drunk
Did I mention Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, Paul and lots of folks!

Satan will tell you, “You’re not worthy!” But Jesus says, “So what? I AM.” Satan will tempt us to look back and sees our mistakes. But God looks back and sees the Cross. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. So say “yes” to God and watch him do something amazing in you and through you today!

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!

Lessons from Peter

A successful entrepreneur with a thriving fishing business, Peter was a natural leader who was willing to take risks. He was bold, impulsive and often stuck out his neck in pursuit of being with Jesus. This zealous side of Peter served him well, but it also got him into trouble. Throughout the Scriptures, we see Peter struggling to let go of his agenda and accept God’s agenda, and in doing so, he sets himself up for failure time and time again.

While Peter didn’t lack for motivation, he did refuse to deal with many of the “know” and “below” barriers that prevented him from being the man God intended. Aware of Peter’s tendencies, Jesus allowed Peter to put himself in positions to fail, because in doing so, Jesus knew that Peter would also put himself in positions to grow. Every time Peter failed, he learned something about life and every time he learned something, he grew. And in learning from his mistakes, Peter became a different man.

Presented with the same challenges and opportunities, we would likely respond like Peter, who boasted too much, prayed too little, acted too fast and followed too far away. However, the good news is that just like Peter, who learned from his mistakes, there is a gracious Father who wants to do the same wonderful work in our lives as well. But that takes a commitment on our part. First, to be courageous enough to face our own “know”, “go” and “below” barriers to spiritual growth. Second, to trust God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

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!

Things You Can Count On

A grace that’s sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9);
a mercy that endures (Psalm 136:1);
an atoning blood that cleanses (1 John 2:2);
a hope that doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:5);
a love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8);
a purpose that works all things together for good (Romans 8:28);
a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7);
a joy unspeakable (1 Peter 1:8);
a kingdom that’s unshakable (Hebrews 12:28);
a foundation which is indestructible (2 Timothy 2:19);
a High Priest who prays (John 17);
a Savior who lives (1 Corinthians 15:1-11);
a Spirit who comforts (2 Corinthians 1:4);
a Father who cares (1 Peter 5:7).

– Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

Refuel

Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about the need for Christian leaders to refuel themselves in ministry. Ministry responsibilities can be hard work, resulting in long hours and challenging days. In 1 Samuel 30:6, we read how “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God,” during an emotionally difficult season in his life. In looking at David’s example, it’s important that those who are in ministry, either vocationally or as a volunteer, take time to fill their tank, so that ministry is the overflow of an emotionally healthy self.

Over the years, I have gotten better about taking time to refresh, rejuvenate and renew. Each person rejuvenates differently, but here are six things I have found that fill my tank and inspire me in the race that God has called me to…

  1. Listening to music – Nothing uplifts my soul like an inspiring or upbeat song.
  2. Practicing spiritual disciplines – Time spent with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading gives me perspective, hope and principles for living.
  3. Reading – There’s something very inspirational to me about reading a good biography or Christian living book.
  4. Hanging out with inspiring people – I love to hang out with visionary leaders who want to impact the world as well as hear the amazing stories of God’s redemptive work in others lives.
  5. Enjoying hobbies – I love capturing the beauty of God’s creation through the lenses of a camera! And I marvel in the strategy behind a great baseball game.
  6. Getting away – Unplugging and getting out-of-town, even for a few days, clears my mind and helps me refocus on what’s really important in life.

By being a healthy leader, you motivate others to live a healthier life as well. So take time to refresh. In doing so, you give yourself and those you lead a great gift.

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