Why Should I Trust God?

This week we started a new series, Why? The Answers to the Questions We All Have, at SCG! In the series, we’re asking the question, “Why?” out loud, as together we look for the answers to the questions we all ask. Questions like, “Why should I trust God?”; “Why can’t I do this on my own?”; “Why am I never satisfied?” and more!

At the heart of all the questions we have about God, is the question, “Can I really trust Him?” We wonder if God really loves us. We wonder if we’re really good enough for God to love us. No matter how you might answer that question, the reality is, there is a God who not only loves you, but made a way for you to know and experience life in Him. By an act of God’s grace or unmerited favor, God did for mankind, what we could not do for ourselves. At the cross, God satisfied the sin debt and adopted all who would believe in Him. God’s grace not only secures our salvation, but also sanctifies us (or grows us) to maturity.

In Mark 5:24-34, there’s a story of a woman who trusted in Jesus when others had failed her. Just being a woman in that ancient culture meant that she was not well-respected and she was most likely shunned by her community because of the nature of her lengthy sickness. But she was determined to push through the barriers and connect with the God who she believed could heal her. When Jesus healed her, He also commanded her to reveal herself. And Jesus made it clear that she was healed because of her faith…not her status, abilities or virtue! Our God wants us to come to Him as we are, unashamed and totally vulnerable, as we place our faith in Him.

Do you believe that God loves you? He proved it to you at the cross! Because of His sacrificial love, you can trust Him! To elaborate on this point, have a listen to our Senior Pastor’s message this weekend…

Ways to Promote Your Small Group

This is an exciting week for our small group ministry at SeaCoast Grace Church as most of our groups launch within the next couple of days! As our leaders put the final touches on our preparations, I wanted to encourage them to give one last push to invite others, as well as share some ideas on how they could promote their small group. Being that these ideas are pretty universal, I thought that maybe they could be helpful to you as well…

1. Invite Your Friends/Family – Pray and ask God to put on your heart the names of family and friends, who you think might benefit from being in your group. Shoot them an email, or make a call to personally invite them. When leaders extend an invitation, people feel pulled into a group, rather than pushed to join a group.

2. Post it on Facebook – Many of us have Facebook accounts,  so post something on your profile, letting others know about your group! You may be surprised who might respond. In addition, consider creating a “Facebook Groups” page for your group to post pictures and stay in touch throughout the week. Also have the members of your group “check in” with Facebook before the group starts and tag everyone there! By doing this, you might create a buzz about your group that may trigger a few conversations during the week.

3. Work the Small Group Kiosk/Table – People are constantly stopping by the kiosk on the weekends to inquire about groups! By working the kiosk, you give them a chance to meet you in person and get a level of comfort with you before they jump in! This past weekend our Run for God leaders recruited several members by just helping sell curriculum.

4. Encourage Your Members to Invite Others – Encourage the members of your group to invite their family and friends. In addition, encourage them to post about the group on Facebook or to work the Small Group kiosk! You might even place an empty chair at each week’s meeting and pray that God would fill that empty chair by next week.

5. Update Your GroupFinder/Online Profile – By updating your groups profile information online and adding fun and creative pictures of your group, you say to prospective members, we’re a fun group and you should really consider joining us!

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!

Talking to Your Kids About Sex

I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with my son Zach at Chick-fil-A a few months ago. It was one of the most awkward moments of parenting. But looking back, I’m glad I started the conversation when I did. Having sensed God’s prompting, I recognized that helping my son live pure and understand God’s design for our sexuality would be a challenge in today’s culture, so I wanted to start early and be ahead of the curve, so that he learns about sex from me, rather than someone else.

The other day, I was asked by a father at church about what to do in regards to communicating with his kids about sex. Here’s what I had to say on the subject:

Start Early – The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the right information about sex.

Share in Stages – Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. A great book to read on this subject is Talking to Your Kids About Sex, by Mark Laaser. This book is broken down by the stages of a child’s development and offers practical age appropriate ideas of what to address, how and why.

Answer Questions – If your child is willing to ask a question, it’s because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of putting off the questions their children ask and never return to answer them. Either because they feel their child isn’t ready to hear them, or they aren’t prepared to address it. Whatever the reason, if you don’t answer the question, they will probably ask someone else.

Teach According to Truth, not Culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture today is trying to redefine what sex is and one of the greatest tragedies of our generation has been the separation of human sexuality and spirituality. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different. If they understand God’s design for their sexuality, they will live differently.

Discuss the Emotional, & Physical Aspects of Sexual Intimacy – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage which can be caused by premarital sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain of premarital sex is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.

Make a Covenant with Them – My sister-in-law took both of her kids on a retreat, went through the Passport to Purity curriculum and gave them a purity ring to wear as a reminder of the covenant they made between God and their parents. When my niece got married earlier this year, she gave her ring back to her father to symbolize that she had faithfully fulfilled the vow she had made that day as a teenager.

Keep the Door Open – Keep having the age appropriate conversations! My conversations with Zach are far from over, but by opening the door early, I have hopefully removed any barriers that would prevent him from coming to talk to me. I have also removed the mystique of sex, by being willing to talk to him and answer the questions he has. I don’t believe Zach would be willing to talk about such a difficult subject in the future, if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.

Disneyland Tips

As Northern California transplants, Jennifer and I have enjoyed hosting our friends and family in Southern California while they visit Disneyland, colleges, the beach or whatever. And being that we live just 8 miles away from the Happiest Place on Earth, we often get asked lots of questions about discount deals to dining preferences. So having just recently visited, I thought I would share some of my tips to make your visit to Disneyland even more enjoyable.

Best Practices: With the opening of Carsland, it’s best to visit California Adventure first and secure your FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers, the best ride in the resort! The FASTPASS line cues up around the Carthay Circle Restaurant. In addition, you can secure a FASTPASS for the World of Color near the Grizzly River Run. Once you secure both, head over to Disneyland or visit other parts of the park, as everyone is heading to Carsland first. In fact, I think Carsland is best experienced at night, when everything is all lit up! Remember, your FASTPASS is good for anytime that day, as long as it’s after your designated start time. I am also told, although I have never tested it out, that the FASTPASS rules applies to each park separately. So, if your plans take you to Disneyland first and then over to California Adventure, you’ll be able to get a second FASTPASS ticket there.

Affordable Dining Options: There are lots of places to grab a burger throughout the park, but if you’re in the mood for something more, we recommend Rancho del Zocalo in Adventureland. Entrees include citrus fire-grilled chicken, 4 cheese enchiladas, soft tacos, burritos and even a tostada salad. In addition, there is a fresh water fountain that you can use to refill your water bottles! We also enjoy dining in Cafe Orleans, where we often share a Monte Cristo sandwich and garlic fries. Also new to Carsland, is Flo’s V8 Cafe, which is good if you enjoy comfort food.

Fine Dining Options: It’s best to make reservations in advance through Disney Dining. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance at (714) 781-DINE. Some of our favorite dining options include the Blue Bayou, Napa Rose in the Grand Californian, and Wine Country Trattoria. To save money, we recommend going to the Blue Bayou for lunch. In addition, there is full-service prix fixe dinner options at Wine Country Trattoria that include tickets to a reserved viewing section of the World of Color! Overall, the best value for the money, is the Wine Country Trattoria!

Other Notable Food/Snack Options: An Ice Cream Sundae at Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in California Adventure; Mickey-shaped Beignets at Cafe Orleans; and the Churro Bites in Carsland are the best we’ve ever tasted!

I would love to hear your tips and favorites as well, so take a minute to post some below…

The End of an Era

Today I said goodbye to my faithful friend of 15 years! We shared 250,000 miles of memories along the road of life! Traveling the highways, byways and navigating through the seasons of life. I never named her. However, she was a faithful road warrior! I purchased her from Carmichael Honda just days before starting my job with DaySpring Cards back in 1997.

She was a faithful traveling companion. She traversed over 100,000 miles with me from Bakersfield to Eugene, OR and everywhere in between, while with DaySpring Cards. She kept me safe, as I was twice rear ended and once spun out on black ice in OR. In my transition from the road to vocational ministry, she transported me back and forth to seminary several days a week for over two years. She even transported some very important people in her prime, including NY Times bestselling author Henry Cloud and Dove Award Nominee and recording artist, Jason Gray.

With skyrocketing gas prices, she has been our go to car these last couple of years, offering the best miles per gallon, compared to our Dodge Durango! Even with her old age and high mileage, she was like the Energizer bunny, she just kept going and going. Despite the fender benders, and dents courtesy of Zach, I never had anything go wrong with her. And she still rolls pretty good, although she has lost a lot of her get up and go. The good news is that she’s not going to junk yard, instead she’ll be going back to Sacramento, the town she was adopted in, in order to become my nieces primary car.

So, what do you do when you had some a great experience with a Honda vehicle for 15 years? You buy another one! I think this time I will name her!

Tweetable Moments from the Summit

This year I opted to not attend the Global Leadership Summit, sponsored by Willow Creek! It was sort of a bittersweet decision, as I look forward to the spiritual jolt I get from the Summit, especially as I prepare to head into the fall. But after 10 straight years of attending, I decided to take a pass this year.

However, as a huge fan of the Summit, I have been reading the blogs, watching the Twitter feed and even got a live stream of one of the segments online. So while I wasn’t actually in attendance, I did manage to grab a few nuggets from this year’s Summit based on the wonders of modern technology! Here are a few of my notable quotes and take aways…

You are the most difficult person you will ever lead. – Bill Hybels

God didn’t make you a leader to respond to stuff. He made you a leader to move stuff ahead. – Bill Hybels

Leadership is about helping others see their own leadership qualities and potential. – Condoleeza Rice

The most important characteristic in a leader is irrepressible optimism. – Condoleeza Rice

When you’re in a position of authority, you need truth-tellers around you. – Condoleeza Rice

An organization is not truly great if it can’t be great without you. – Jim Collins

Authenticity trumps cool every time. – Craig Groeschel

Respect is earned, honor is given. – Craig Groeschel

Organizational health is the single greatest competitive advantage in business. – Patrick Lencioni

We are the biggest barrier to us experiencing success. – William Ury

Life is not measured in time, but in love, contribution and moments of grace. – Carly Fiorina

Never give yourself permission to avoid doing what is right. – Mario Vega

Leaders are not only responsible for their own actions, but for the influence they have over those they lead. – Mario Vega

It’s one thing to see a vision and another to be seized by one. – Bill Hybels

What was your favorite moment? Biggest take away?

Raising An Olympian

Last night America was inspired by the finesse and joy of Gabby Douglas’ performance that earned her the women’s all-around gymnastics gold medal! It was a moment of glory! However, that moment, wasn’t realized without a lot of sacrifice on Gabby’s part. “I just want people to know it took a lot,” she said. “It took a lot of hard days in the gym and determination, passion and drive. Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day.”

After taking gold, Gabby declared on national television, ‎”I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him & all the blessings fall down on me.”

Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, if you take the letters in her last name, they spell out USA GOLD! Way to represent Gabby! You made your nation proud.

Christian Athleticism & The Olympics

If you are like most American’s right now, you’re probably a little sleep deprived from watching the Olympic coverage! With so many televised options, you can literally watch Olympic coverage 24-hours a day! It’s amazing to see these athletes, some of whom are just teenagers, perform at the highest level of competition! When I was 17, I sure wasn’t preparing to fly to London! I was just hoping that I didn’t wreck my 1967 Volkswagen Bug!

What I’m struck by is the sheer amount of perseverance and dedication these Olympic athletes possess. Countless hours of practice, a myriad of sacrifices and an incredible amount of strength & grit got them to the London games. While they make it look easy, they put in years of hard work, for a single event that will, at best, last for only a few minutes!

The games teach us the value of self-control, discipline, training and adherence to principle. And these athletes make us shake our heads in disbelief at the strength, skill and determination of which human beings are capable.

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul writes, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (NLT). In considering this verse, I believe that the Apostle Paul knew and understood something that many of us contemporary Christians miss: Success in the Christian life requires training, conditioning and focused effort. There is a spiritual athleticism required. Learning to trust God and live the Christian life requires training, just like gymnastics and swimming.

Watching the Olympics has once again inspired me to give my all for Jesus! After all, lazy Christians, like lazy athletes, don’t win. What’s more, they don’t even have much fun!

A Grace Filled Response

In reading the headlines and social media threads over the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy’s comments, I was reminded of Bill Hybels loving and grace filled response to Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who under pressure from a gay advocacy group, canceled his appearance at the Leadership Summit, just a few days before the event.

I encourage you to listen to Bill’s response, made in front of a global audience at last years Summit, for I believe his wise words can speak to the issues of our day and give us some great ideas on how we can lovingly respond…

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