MothersBeach.jpg

Daily Devotional

The Gift of Anger

They shed innocent blood… Therefore the Lord was angry with his people.  - Psalms 106:40 

Sometimes we move too fast to get to forgiveness. We feel so uncomfortable with the anger, sadness, or disappointment that we have to hold in our heart when others are causing pain. The Lord knows a lot about this. The Lord is the best forgiver of all. And yet the Lord freely gets angry.

When it comes to injustice, that makes God really angry. God definitely will forgive, but not before being angry. Sometimes we short-circuit the forgiveness process by skipping over the anger. 

How might you need to be angry today in order to confront injustice, set boundaries, work for change, and, ultimately, get to forgiveness?

Where Are You Angry?

In your anger do not sin. - Ephesians 4:26

The upright give thought to their ways. - Proverbs 21:29

Though it’s clearly not our go-to approach to anger, apparently there’s a way to be angry without sinning. According to Ephesians 4:26, we are invited into anger while still being warned against sin. Of course, Jesus was angry any number of times, so we know this is at least theoretically possible!

The book of Proverbs sheds some additional light when it comes to anger, which is that we should ponder it. As Brenna said on Sunday, anger can be like the ‘Check Engine’ light blinking on the dashboard of your car. It is neither morally good nor bad - it’s just a signal that there’s something worth taking a closer look at under the hood because otherwise something dangerous might happen.

So what if we took our anger seriously enough to loo at it directly and to turn it over in our mind. Perhaps it will hold the clue for us to where we’ve been violated, perhaps it will reveal some gift or passion that we’ve not noticed before, perhaps it will invite us into a bigger role in pursuing justice, or perhaps it will show us some place where we’re wounded or immature.

Take time today to give thought to your anger. Don’t shut it up or pretend it’s not there. Name it, embrace it, and invite the Spirit to guide you as you seek to learn from it what God wants to show you.

Forgive

Forgive and you will be forgiven. - Luke 6:37

As Jesus continues to teach about the kind of relationships that this world so desperately needs and yet are so ridiculously hard, he moves on from loving our enemies to forgiving others. Forgiveness is not for the faint at heart. This week we’ll look at some of the necessary parameters that make forgiveness healthy and not just an invitation to surrender to injustice or abuse. But we need to start with God’s perspective, which is that at it’s core, forgiveness is how God works.

Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God's own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us. - Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

Sure God wants us to flourish in our lives and therefore gives us commands to lead to that fullness of life, but ultimately God is less interested in the commands than in the relationship. God wants to be with us, and forgiveness is the only way to make that happen. And it’s the same with our relationships with each other - we can’t persist in close relationships unless we learn how to forgive, because inevitably it will be necessary.

So talk with God today and invite God to begin teaching you to forgive the way Jesus forgave. Don’t push yourself too hard to get to forgiveness too fast - there’s a process that we’ll unpack this week. Instead, just invite the Spirit to start preparing your heart for the hard work of being like Christ in the area of forgiveness.

Be Thou My Vision

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
- Psalm 84:5

As we think about pilgrimage today, watch this simple music video (which has the lyrics in it) of the old Irish ballad, Be Thou My Vision.

What words or images from the song resonate with you?
What does the rhythmic energy or pace of the music communicate?
Is there an experience or place in your spiritual path that connects to the song?

Respond to God in prayer.

Not Knowing Where You Are Going

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. - Hebrews 11:8

Do you ever feel like you don’t know where God is calling you? Join the club!

One of the biggest feasts of Israel’s year started off with the line, "My father was a wandering Aramean” which was a reference to Abraham (who was from Aram) not knowing where he was going besides a general call from Yahweh. So you’re in good company if you sense God leading you to take some risks and to adventure out there but don’t have the details all sorted out yet.

Yesterday we looked at how God calls us to rootedness. That rootedness stands in tension with the adventure of pilgrimage. Neither is wrong; both are essential on the journey of faith. Do you have a sense of which season you are in right now?

Think of pilgrimage as a physical journey with a spiritual purpose. If you have clarity about God’s call to take some big risks and to go on pilgrimage these days, ask Jesus to give you the courage to embrace the ambiguity of not knowing where you’re going. If you don’t have any sense of what risks Jesus has next for you, ask the Spirit to guide you.

The Gift of Stability

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green
- Psalm 92:12-14

The Bible often uses trees as pictures of stability and rootedness. Being planted like a tree (for example, the one by streams of waters in Psalm 1 or the “oaks of righteousness'“ in the prophecy in Isaiah 61). Here in Psalm 92 it’s the picture of being planted in God’s temple (there were no trees in the temple, by the way!) - the picture of strength and vigor.

When you think of heaven, why not insert the image of the flourishing tree instead of the image of bubbly angels playing harps on clouds (not an image from the Bible)? When Jesus invites us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, envision yourself in that prayer - and think of yourself as a strong, flourishing tree that’s fully alive.

Take some time and ponder these things - thinking about heaven, thinking about flourishing, thinking about rootedness. Talk with God about what’s being stirred up in you today.

oaks-of-righteousness.jpg
Stability or Adventure?

Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
- Psalm 84:4-5

According to Psalm 84, there’s a blessing for those who in seasons of stability and rootedness - “those who dwell in God’s house,” and there’s a blessing for those who adventure out in new ways - “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” They may seem like opposites, but God values both and blesses both. Often, there are different parts of our lives that reflect both.

Where in your life are you feeling solid and strong right now? Take some time to praise God for that.

Where in your life are you taking risks and seeking forward movement in your faith? Ask God to be your strength.

A Simple Practice to Start Your Week

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you
- Psalm 84:1-4

A team of ancient worship leaders (“the sons of Korah”) put together this hit song to help people connect to God. They start the song with a very simple, practical meditation. They are in the temple worshipping and notice that little bird has found its way into the temple and has made its nest near the Lord’s altar. Instead of shooing the bird away, the worship leaders just reflect on that bird being, literally making its home in God’s house. And out of that simple meditation, this song was written.

See if you can find a simple way to meditate on nature today. Maybe it’s just looking at your house plant for a few minutes, maybe it’s driving down to the ocean on your lunch break to listen to the waves, maybe it’s walking around the block and looking up at the sky. But take this moment to really pay attention. Let your mind wander around, pondering God’s creativeness or whatever else helps you gain a bit of perspective on your life.

Finally, return to this Psalm, praying it out loud to end your time.

Sunday Devotional

This Sunday, City Church is not holding our regular worship service. That’s because Saturday October 5th is our annual Leader’s Retreat and we want to give our leaders a break from all the hard work they do to pull together the Sunday service.

So we wanted to share a brief devotional for us all to reflect on, either individually or in groups of friends or as a family.

Take your time, get comfortable. Maybe take a few deep breaths to get yourself centered and comfortable…

Call To Worship

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Opening Prayer

Almighty and intimate God, meet us in this place, in this time. Would you refresh us today. And towards that end we pray that you would help us join you in seeing our own thoughts, help us join you in hearing own own hearts, help us join with you in feeling our own bodies. We acknowledge the busyness in our minds, the mixed emotions in our hearts, and the twinges in our bodies - and we bring all these before you, not for you to do away with them, but for you to fill them with yourself.

Gospel Reading

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”). - Matthew 1:23

Reflection

In about 400 AD the great African bishop, Augustine of Hippo, was reflecting on Psalm 35:3 when David was feeling overwhelmed by people trying to kill him. David asked for God to be close, praying to God, “Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’”

Augustine journaled about his experience taking that simple line from David and thinking about how it connected with him personally. H thought about the hardships of his own life. As Augustine jotted down his thoughts, it ended up being a very simple but intimate prayer to God. Take time to reflect on Augustine’s prayer, and see if there are ways to make it your own. Where do you need rescuing?

Whisper to my heart, "I am here to save you."  Speak so that I may hear your words.  My heart has ears ready to listen to you, Lord.  Open them wide and whisper in my heart, "I am here to save you."  I shall hear your voice and make haste to clasp you to myself.  Do not hide your face away from me, for I would gladly meet my death to see it, since not to see it would be death indeed.
- Augustine of Hippo, in Confessions

Listening

Listen to THIS song and allow it to wash over you. Can you hear God whispering to you? What is God saying? How might you respond?

All Belong Here by The Many

When you’re not sure who you really are
When all you feel is the shape of your scars
And you have more wounds than you can count
Open your eyes, look all around
You aren’t alone, this is your home

Come and remember who you are here
Do this to remember who I am
Come and remember you belong here
All belong here.

When you don’t know how to forgive
When locked doors seem like the only way to live
And you’ve got more questions than you can count
Open your eyes, look all around
You aren’t alone, this is your home

Come and remember who you are here
Do this to remember who I am
Come and remember you belong here
All belong here.

At this table come as you are
Broken and bleeding’s ok
At this table eat and be filled
Come and drink in this grace.

Closing Prayer

Almighty and intimate God, thank you for this time. Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and how he made clear how much you want to be with us. Help us enter this week more aware of your presence in our lives and more able to carry your presence into this world.

Be Kind To Yourself

Do not judge or you will be judged. - Luke 6:37

Often, the one person we judge most harshly is ourselves. According to Jesus, if we didn’t judge ourselves then we wouldn’t feel judged by ourselves. That’s a simple truth, but so, so hard to do.

Today, listen to the introduction to the song Be Kind To Yourself and then let the song wash over you. The lyrics are below. Let Jesus heal you of judging yourself today.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Andrew Peterson

You got all that emotion that's heaving like an ocean
And you're drowning in a deep, dark well
I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice
You would rather be anyone else

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He made your precious heart

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

I know it's hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can't believe your Father knows best

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He's shaping your heart

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

How does it end when the war that you're in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

You can't expect to be perfect
It's a fight you've gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself

Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too



What Is Acceptance?

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. - Romans 15:7

Jesus didn’t just tolerate us. He didn’t step onto our planet just to put up with us. He deeply embraced us. It says in the book of Hebrews that he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11).

So what might it look like for you to accept others in the same way Jesus accepted you? Perhaps take some time to ponder what his acceptance means to you. Pray for the kind of grace to accept others that way today. And as you do, let this blessing rest on you, just as Paul laid it on the church in Rome after challenging them to this new level of accepting one another:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

For Progressives and Conservatives

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. - Romans 14:1-4

Sure, Christians struggle all the time with judging those outside the church. But we also struggle with judging those inside the church who have differing theological perspectives than we do. The Apostle Paul writes about this at length in the book of Romans, and he shamelessly calls us to a gracious unity that embraces our differences.

In this particular setting, the ‘weak’ were those who came from a more conservative theological background and whose faith in Jesus led them to take the Old Testament scriptures very seriously, and thus they wouldn’t eat meat that had been sold in the meat markets because most of it was offered to idols as part of the preparation process. The ‘strong’ were the more progressive Christians who were open to eating meat because their faith in Jesus led them to accept all things as gifts and who didn’t feel as bound to the Old Testament laws.

If you find yourself on the conservative theological side of the spectrum, do you judge those who are more progressive (‘they are so liberal they probably don’t even believe in the Bible!’)? If you are on the progressive theological side of the spectrum, do you show contempt for those who are more conservative (‘they are so unenlightened and legalistic!’)?

Read through the passage again and let Jesus speak to you about your attitude towards his precious children. Then spend some time confessing your own sins and asking for the grace to not judge.

The Least Judgmental Person Ever

Today we’re going to read one of the stories of Jesus and how radically welcoming he was. When he heals this man, he doesn’t ask for the reasons why he was injured in the first place, he places no blame on the man, and he publicly invites those who would condemn the man to embrace him instead. You can see how well that goes!

As you read it, think about Jesus being the least judgmental human ever. Read over the passage a couple of times. What stands out to you today from this passage? Hold that up to Jesus in prayer and allow him to further clarity what he’s saying to you.

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
- Mark 3:1-6

This Is Us

Do not judge or you will be judged. - Luke 6:37

After three years of extensive research amongst those born from 1965 to 2002, David Kinnaman, the president of the Barna Research Group, found that nearly nine out of ten outsiders (87 percent) said that the term judgmental accurately describes present-day Christianity.

Friends, this is us. This is what 87% of non-churchy people think of us Christians. No doubt you can think of a moment or two in your own interactions with others that, unfortunately, match the results of this study. In fact, you can probably come up with some where you were the judger and some where you were the judged.

So take a trip around the Learning Circle today, with Jesus’s words and the contrasting practice of the church being your kairos. Let this reality sink in. Wonder a bit what God might be saying to you in all of this, and what you might do about it.

Learning circle.png
City Church Long BeachComment
Ring the Bells

In some ways the modern parallel to the Old Testament prophets are the musicians and poets who paint new futures with their words Today, listen to Abner and Amanda Ramirez (aka Johnnyswim) as they weigh in on what it means to live justly while not giving in to hating our enemies. HERE is them sining these prophetic words.

Ring The Bells
Johnnyswim

Ring the bells, this time I mean it
Bid the hatred "fare thee well"
Give back the pieces of my Jesus
Take your counterfeit to hell
Bang the drums, this means war
Not the kind you're waiting for
We say mercy won't be rationed here
That's what we're fighting for


If all is fair in love and war
Then what the hell is loving even for?
If we can't sing it loud enough
We'll keep on adding voices up

Ring the bells
Ring the bells
Ring the bells
Ring the bells

Move your feet you tiny people
You've been hiding for so long
Behind your statues and your steeples
Does that hit too close to home?
I got faith to move a mountain
And to watch that mountain move
It's time for words to fall like thunder
Sound of justice breaking through

If all is fair in love and war
Then what the hell is loving even for?
The world laughs and the martyrs sing
But love breaks through the cavalry

Ring the bells
Ring the bells
Ring the bells
Ring the bells

You called me boy instead of son
And I ain't the only one
Was in the throneroom of a kingdom
Where I found that I belong
I ain't scared to face a fortress
I have seen them fall before
With broken bones you've built it
But it crumbles board by board


If all is fair in love and war
Then what the hell is loving even for?
If we can't sing it loud enough
We'll keep on adding voices up

City Church Long BeachComment
The Great Enemy Lover

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Forgiving our enemies and overcoming them with love seems just about impossible. And then we look at Jesus, hanging on a cross and forgiving those who put him there.

Today there is nothing else to do in our devotions than to meditate on Jesus as the great lover of enemies. Take his words of forgiveness and turn them over in your mind. Whisper them. Be silent with them and let them sink into you. Visualize him saying them. Experience them for yourself. Daydream about being able to say them yourself.

Sometimes a visual helps to stir in us a new perspective. Here’s a piece by Kazuya Akimoto that helps reorient the cross and to envision the impact from a new angle.

IMG_9453_top_view_Crucifixion_of_Jesus_Christ_colorful_expressionism.jpg
City Church Long BeachComment
Break Their Face

Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. - Psalm 3:7

This week we’re learning from Jesus how to love our enemies. This may not be a verse that comes to mind immediately when you think of loving your enemies! But let’s give it a try…

How can you love your enemies if you don’t allow yourself to really feel what’s going on inside of you because of their oppression or injustice or threats? Oftentimes, all that comes out of us is a repressed niceness. But Jesus wants more - he’s calling for agape love, which is the unconditional kind. But it’s hard to get there until you can reckon with the real pain and injustice they’ve done to you.

Often times the first step towards forgiving and loving our enemies is cussing them out… in prayer (not to their face!). It means getting really honest with the suffering you’re facing and not living in denial anymore. It means naming their badness to God, and letting God deal with them. It may include ranting and raving - all of which is completely safe with God. In fact, God gave us the psalms as examples of what we’re actually allowed to pray! We’re SUPPOSED to pray that line above!

Indeed, that line above is a first step towards love. It’s naming the pain and hurt and releasing it to God so that we can take the next step and forgive the real harm done to us. So take some time today and see if there is anyone you can pray that prayer over today as part of the journey towards loving them.

City Church Long BeachComment
God Goes First

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. Colossians 1:21-23 The Message

The core concept of Christianity is that we can love because God loved us first. And that’s how loving our enemies works - God did it first, so we’re just allowing his love for us to overflow even to our enemies.

It might be helpful to think about this in three pieces: 1) even though sometimes we hate ourselves and our enemies and even ‘turn our backs to God’ as the passage says above 2) God extended grace to us in Christ to win us back to be family again so 3) now we can grow in that relationship with God, we can give ourselves grace and we can extend grace to even those we are in conflict with.

This about those three relationships - with God, with yourself, and with others (both those within the family of God and the rest of the world). How is God at work in each of those spaces in your life to bring more grace and less hate? (It may be helpful to think about this in the simple picture of a the Connection Triangle, capturing the key connections in every life):

fullsizeoutput_5ab0.jpeg
City Church Long BeachComment
Transactional vs. Transformational

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. - Luke 6:32-36

Yesterday the message was about how so many of our relationships are transactional (“I will do this for you if you do that for me”). Tongue in cheek he mentions “sinners” three times - as if we all don’t know we struggle with selfishness - emphasizing that the transaction approach is the standard in our world today.

Jesus instead invites into a new way of living, and he himself embodied transformational relationships, where he went the extra mile, he turned the other cheek, and he regularly turned those who might be called enemies into his friends. He used what Brenna called “Disruptive Kindness” to shake people loose from the rigidity of their thinking.

We had the privilege of hearing from Ellie Dote in the message as well about what it’s meant for her to enter into remarkably unwelcoming spaces to remind people that people who are transgender like her are real people. By her mere presence in those spaces she invites transformation. (HERE is a bit of her story if you missed it).

What is a relationship that you experience as primarily transactional? What might it look to infuse disruptive kindness into that relationship “without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35)

City Church Long BeachComment
Those Morning People...

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. - Proverbs 27:14

This may not be the typical passage for a devotional, but it really fits with our theme of the week looking at the Golden Rule. Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mk 6:31).

So if the other person is a night owl and you’re a morning person, be quiet when you wake up! The purpose of doing good is not to draw attention to ourselves and not to do what we want, but what would be received as good for them.

is there a quiet way you could show kindness to someone today in a way they would appreciate? Let that be a spiritual act of your worship today.

City Church Long BeachComment