Thursday, August 29, 2019

Searching for true joy

Do you like following the rules? 

I’m not aware of too many individuals who loved growing up with firm boundaries.  However, I know plenty of people, including myself, who benefited immensely from rules.  We may have hated them in the moment, but they had a real significance! 

A few days ago, I was responsible for putting my oldest son to bed.  We were out late at a park, and by the time we got home, it was already late.  We should have immediately started our evening routine, but I decided to let him have another snack… Then he wanted to play more… Then he wanted an extra story… I naively thought I could break the rules and just enjoy a fun evening.  However, it is probably unsurprising to learn that the night ended with a bit of chaos! J
I find the psychology of law and order to be fascinating.  Humans have a tendency to try and fight the law. However, people also need structure to thrive.  I know my kids need it, and I do too!  People have told me this before, but it is powerful to see firsthand. 

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says he came to fulfill every letter of the law.  He clearly knew the law was important.  Nevertheless, he would break rules all the time.  He would heal on the Sabbath.  He touched the unclean.  He took a stand for God even when that meant execution…

I think we all need structure, but there are also seasons to ask questions.  There are seasons in life when law and order bring joy.  There are other times when these strict rules can suffocate us…  Today I hope you can find a place to reflect.  When is structure life giving?  When have the rules prevented you from seeing the greater joy of God’s Kingdom?  Jesus pointed out that we cannot always see the difference ourselves.  Usually, we have pretty bad judgment.  We reject the law when we need it the most.  We also will embrace the law when it is suffocating us.  Perhaps we all need an outside voice to hear us, reflect with us, and break our hearts of stone.  That is what the church is for.  I hope we can all be honest with who we are this week.  I hope we can feel accepted in Christ’s arms, and I hope we can be motivated to grow every day!



Friday, August 23, 2019

Cherish Love

Have you ever found yourself looking at old photographs?  I know it is kind of cliché to talk about how quickly time flies by, but I find it amazing to look back see where I have come from. 

My four year old son also loves to look at pictures.  He loves to see himself visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  He loves to look back at old camping trips, birthday parties, and he even takes time to remember the foster girl we took care of almost two years ago.  Life can bring its share of difficulties, but I believe it is important to cherish the moments too…  

Birthday Memories!
Last we my youngest child celebrated his first birthday.  Time really has flown by, and in so many ways it is all a blur!  The sleepless nights, the cleaning that never ends, and the relentless tornado of our lives moving us forward… it can all get pretty exhausting.  Today I am grateful for opportunities to look back.  I had a few extra moments with my son this morning to look at pictures, laugh, and tell stories.  I hope we can all find moments in the coming weeks to cherish the love that is among us.  I hope we can see that there is more than just chaos.  Let’s choose love this week!



Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bringing Love and Fire!

For as long as I can remember, Jesus has been an incredible source of comfort.  I grew up singing Jesus Loves Me, and to this day I believe Christ loves all the people of the world.  These are attributes that I have valued my entire life, and I cherish passing them on to my kids…

However, Jesus was also a fairly complex individual.  Certainly he always cared about love, grace, and forgiveness, but there was more to him… Take the words of Jesus from Luke 12:49:

“I came to hurl fire to the earth, and O’ how I wish it were already kindled.”

Yikes!  These words are part of our scripture passage this week, and they are not read in very many children’s books.  Nor are these words sung in any of the fun Jesus songs I know. J  This side of Jesus seems totally different from the one I grew up with, and I’m not always sure what to make of that.  I have heard people use these words to condemn others, but I don’t for a minute believe Jesus ever wanted to destroy another human’s life... 

Jesus lived everyday sharing love with fishermen, tax collectors, and the outcasts.  Jesus also spent time reaching out to the scribes, Pharisees, and powerful rulers at the time.  He wanted to bring the good news to everyone!  I think our scripture today is more about burning down the barriers that prevent us from seeing who God truly is. 

Almost every week I travel around the Las Vegas valley visiting all kinds of people, including those nearing the final stages of life.  This can be an exhausting task.  There is fear.  There is pain.  There is also a feeling of loss and grief that can be overwhelming.  However, I really believe these moments are sacred.  There is something special about declaring the promise of love among people who are all ready to listen.  There are so many distractions in our world.  There are so many moments when we give up on ourselves.  I believe Jesus wants us to burn all of these distractions away so that we can hear the real promise of Grace.  That is the beauty of these visits with people.  We are taking a moment to get rid of everything else that doesn’t matter and hear a real promise.  Today, that is my hope and prayer for all of you.  I pray that you could let go and hear a real promise of Grace. 



Thursday, August 8, 2019

Have no fear...

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
-Luke 12:22-23

Don't let the worries win!
Seriously, how powerful is this scripture passage!  I have read the average American spends one hour and fifty minutes worrying every day.  Personally, I can become anxious over the most ridiculous things, like what is for dinner!  First we have to decide what we want.  Next, we have to see what we have.  Finally, we have to find time to cook, listen to kids who want something else, and eventually we wind up with quesadillas anyway.  In the end, it should be a simple task, but it can cause undo stress.

Jesus continues:

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
-Luke 12:24

In many ways, Jesus lived in a very different world from us.  The ancient people of Israel faced oppression and death on a regular basis.  However, there are still plenty of moments of judgement, hostility, and shame in our world.  Instead of celebrating God’s gifts, we can trample each other to celebrate ourselves. 

The final part of our scripture says this:

“Have no fear, little flock, for your Father eagerly desires to give you the kingdom.
-Luke 12:32

God isn’t trying to judge you or shame you.  God eagerly desires to give you the Kingdom.  You don’t have to earn it!  However, we can lose sight of the grace God provides if we let our worries drag us down.  God is desperately reaching out to shower you with love.  My hope and prayer would be that you could open your heart and receive it!


Pastor Brian

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Seeking Love

My house is usually filled with quite a bit of energy.  Kids can be found singing, dancing, and jumping off of every piece of furniture possible. (I suppose the adults are often involved in these activities too! J) However, there are moments when my wife and I look at each other and realize things have gotten too quiet…  Kira typically senses this before I do, and earlier this morning she felt like she had to check on everything.  She found our 11 month old struggling to get into a cupboard we had left open.  When he saw her, he gave her a come and catch me grin, then he snorted and tried to waddle away from her while laughing his little laugh.  This is a kid who can’t talk, but he already loves searching for trouble! He even loves the thrill of the chase! J

He looks so innocent doesn't he?
I think all human beings are searching for something.  We are seekers.  Sometimes our search can be pretty innocent, and if we find ourselves on the wrong path, other people will be there to pick us up.  Other times our search can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviors.  We can find ourselves chasing after anything to fill some void that is within us.  Personally, I don’t believe there is anything in this world that will fill that hole except the love and grace of God. 

When our 11 month old tries to waddle away from us, it doesn’t take long for him to bump into a wall, fall into a laundry basket, or just get himself stuck somewhere.  Then we pick him up, hug him, and we laugh with him.  As much as he wants to get inside all the cupboards, there is nothing good for him in there.  He really just needs love!  I think adults need this reminder too.  In our scripture text this week, Jesus tells us to seek out love.  Christ has already brought grace to the world.  We just have to open our hearts and embrace it!