The Kingdom of God

In the Kingdom of God…

…a person is lifted up by humbling himself, not by exalting himself in the eyes of others.

…strength is found through weakness, not by being confident in your own abilities.

…fullness comes by becoming empty, not by running after pleasure.

…life is gained by losing it, not by looking out for “number one.”

…riches come by giving them away, not by storing them up.

…greatness comes by becoming a servant, not by seeking power and celebrity.

by Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cards

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  – Proverbs 27:17, NIV

Last night was a great night! I got to reconnect with my college buddies from UC Santa Barbara. These are friends I’ve known for over 25 years. And as we sat and talked together, I was reminded of God’s goodness and grace in my life. My life has truly been blessed, in that I have been surrounded with so many great people, who reflect Jesus in beautiful ways. People who have helped me grow spiritually and experience a quality of life that is exuberant and life-giving. These people have spurred me on in the Christian race and have inspired me to be my all for God. However, as I sat with my college buddies last night, I recalled how special these friends were in particular.

From my group of friends at UCSB, six of us went on to serve in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ, and that’s not counting some of our friends from other area schools. I guess you might expect to find that from a Christian university, but this was my experience at university with a “reputation” of being a “party school”! What brought us together, is the same thing that has kept us together, our common faith and commitment to living that out in our world.

As I sat there with my friends, I was thankful, because I realized that God had used my friends to help shape me into the person I am today. It reminded me of the principle, “who we spend our precious time with, will in part affect the direction we go in”. And in this circle of friends, we were all committed to loving Jesus and living according to His plans and purposes for our lives. Therefore our lives took the trajectory of those with whom we had associated with.

If you want to grow into a solid and faithful follower of Jesus, it’s important to spend time with others who are just as committed to spiritual maturity as you are. As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat!”. In other words, you become what you take in and accept into your life. So choose to connect with others who are looking to grow in their spiritual maturity and you will find yourself maturing and becoming the person God wants you to be.

I’m thankful for my friends and for the many others who inspire me to become God’s best version of myself!

Summer 2012 Movie Picks

Today was officially the last day of school for my son Zach. I don’t know if it’s the June gloom or the cast on his leg that has put a glitch in our summer plans, but I’m having a hard time embracing the fact that summer has arrived. But it’s here, whether I’m ready or not and I was reminded of that, as we spent the afternoon at Downtown Disney and saw that a years worth of construction all finished up. Especially on the new entrance to California Adventure, CarsLand as well as at the Lego store.

There’s another industry that always seems to gear up for the summer and release a slew of summer flicks that they hope will become the blockbuster movie of the summer. So in anticipation of the summer movie releases, here are some of the films I’m looking forward to the most, in order of their release dates…

1. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8, 2012) – Just watched Madagascar 1 & 2 with Zach so we’re ready for this new adventure as Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple. This time the road takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent Madagascar style!

2. Brave (June 22, 2012) – Always love what Pixar brings to the screen! In this film, Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin, surly Lord Macintosh and cantankerous Lord Dingwall. Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012) – It’s a super hero summer so it wouldn’t be complete without the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents’ disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors’ alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.

4. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012) – The last movie was great and this release happens to be the one I’m most looking forward to seeing this summer! In this movie, which is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman faces challenges from the brutal Bane and the stealthy Catwoman.

5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (August 3, 2012) – I’ve loved watching this series with Zach, who has really enjoyed reading the books as well. Based on the third and fourth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, The Last Straw and Dog Days. School is out and Greg is ready for the days of summer, when all his plans go wrong. What on earth is he going to do all summer?

Yea, it’s going to be a super heroes sort of summer! What are you looking forward to seeing most?

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

God is On Your Side

The Lord will fight for you.”  – Exodus 14:14

I read these words and draw in a deep breath.
I need them right now.
Don’t we all? Oh, we may not go to war.
But we fight…
for relationships
for dreams

We battle…
against illness
against discouragement
I think of you staring at the screen, perhaps feeling your strength is small.
Oh, yes, I know what that’s like.
But victory isn’t up to us.
And those words you sometimes hear? “You’re not worth fighting for.”
They’re a lie. Nothing more.
This is the truth from the heart of One who calls you His own:
You are loved.
You are worth fighting for.
You are even worth dying for.
So go into your day, strong friend, knowing that nothing can defeat you. You’ve already won.

by Holley Gerth, DaySpring Cards

Celebrating 19 Years of Marriage

Today is Jennifer and my 19th wedding anniversary! It’s a day, I’ll never forget! Not only did I marry my best friend, but it was an incredible day surrounded by our friends and family. 19 years later, I’m still madly in love with this incredible woman and thankful for the incredible journey we’ve shared.

Over 19 years, we’ve truly had a lot to celebrate. So in celebration of our anniversary, here are 19 wonderful memories that I’m thankful for, in the years that they happened…

’93 – Marrying my best friend and a honeymoon in Hawaii!
’94 – Eliminating our debt!
’95 – Buying our first home in Woodland.
’96 – Bringing home our first puppy, Mickey.
’97 – Adopting our sweet Maggie Mae at Christmas.
’98 – Reliving our nation’s history in Washington DC.
’99 – Getting cultured in theater at Music Circus.
’00 – Moving to El Dorado Hills and our vacation in New York!
’01 – The birth of our son, Zachary Bryan!
’02 – Cheering the SF Giants through the season, onto the playoffs and into the World Series!
’03 – Celebrating 10 years of marriage in Lake Tahoe and sharing in the joy of my graduation from Western Seminary!
04 – Leading our small group through two life transforming studies.
’05 – Vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate my ordination.
’06 – Hiking Rock Lake with our 4-year-old son Zach, who made the 2.5mile hike up the mountain on his own.
’07 – Enjoying a sabbatical in Hawaii! One of the highlights of our life!
’08 – Our best camping experience in 15 years of our family tradition at Plumas Eureka State Park.
’09 – Moving to Southern California!
’10 – Celebrating our SF Giants World Series victory! What a thrill!
’11 – Being season ticket holders for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
’12 – Being with family at the wedding of our niece Jessica, who was a flower girl at our wedding 19 years ago.

Wonderful memories with my wonderful friend. Here’s to many more incredible years, celebrating life together! I love you Jen!

A Tribute to My Mom This Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, I rewrote a popular poem, to say thanks to my mom for all that she’s done for me…

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed and care for all the stray pets I brought home, and I learned that it was good to be kind.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite meal for me, and I learned that it’s the little things in life that matter the most.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everything in it (perhaps a little obsessively) and I learned how to take care of the things that I’m blessed with in this world.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel like it and I learned what it meant to be responsible in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but that it’s okay to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight and I experienced first hand what it was like to be loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how proud you were of me as you talked to your friends and it motivated me to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you playing Santa Claus one Christmas Eve night and I saw in your face the reality of Jesus’ words,”It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say “Thanks for all the things I saw you do, even though you thought I wasn’t looking.”

Yes, when you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned a lot of life’s lessons that I needed to know, in order to become the man I am today. So thanks mom for being you, even when you thought I wasn’t looking!

I love you mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful moms who make this world a better place!

Man Party

Today is Friday! It’s the night that my son and I set aside each week to do some male bonding, enjoy life and have some fun together. We’ve been doing this for almost a year now. It’s a night that my son gets to stay up until midnight. It’s the night we get to eat all sorts of junk food that’s bad for you. It’s the night that we cut loose and celebrate authentic manhood.

My son Zach is the master planner of Man Party. I am just the financier. Zach gets to pick what we do, where we eat and who we include. But the financier has to approve it according to the budget. The night usually begins with dinner at home, Portillo’s or Chick fil A, then we usually watch a movie at home or head to the 4 Star Cinema, where a ticket for a first run movie is only $7. We’ve also spent many a night at Disneyland, and this summer have plans to take in an Angels game or two as well. But lately, we’ve been doing the movie thing, followed by some video games. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve watched the prequel and trilogy of Star Wars, the Back to the Future series, as well as the complete set of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

As you can probably imagine Zach looks forward to this night all week! We talk about our options in the morning as I drive him to school and we confirm our plans on Friday morning. Tonight we’re heading to Portillo’s for dinner and then off to see the Avengers! And Jennifer, my wife, is totally supportive and wouldn’t have it any other way.

So why do I do this? Because I love my son. Because I want him to have special memories with his dad. But primarily because I believe that my relationship with my son will greatly shape the man he will become in the future. Additionally I’ve learned that men don’t like to sit face to face and talk about their feelings and that it’s much easier to open up when we’re doing something side by side, and we can just let the talk flow naturally as we stand in line for a roller coaster or talk on the ride home about how cool the special effects were in Real Steel and about the life lessons we learned from the story.

Yes, it’s in these shared experiences that I get the opportunity to speak into my son’s life. And for my son, it’s all in the context of having fun. I don’t know how much longer Zach will want to continue prioritizing Man Party with dad, but I am clearing my calendar as much as I can, to make sure I’m there until Man Party is replaced with dates with girls.

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.

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