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Daily Devotional

Your Word

This week we’ve been thinking about hearing and responding to God. Today, engage your heart by listening to this worship song by Hillsong, asking God to keep speaking to you and for the courage to hear and respond. Below are the lyrics.

Your Word

Hillsong Worship

Before the Earth knew its foundations
You spoke the dust, into creation
Until the end, when all has withered
Then still your Word, will endure forever

The lamp unto my feet
The light unto my path

Your Word, will not be shaken
Your Word, will never fail me
Like a fire in my bones
Like a whisper to my soul
Your Word, is revelation

Deep calls to deep, within Your presence
When I hear You speak, my soul awakens
Your Spirit leads, my heart to worship
As Your Word reveals, the light of Jesus

The lamp unto my feet
The light unto my path

Your Word, will not be shaken
Your Word, will never fail me
Like a fire in my bones
Like a whisper to my soul
Your Word, is revelation

Jesus

Your Word, will not be shaken
Your Word,…

The 3 Struggles

But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. - Luke 6:46-49

There are three main struggles when it comes to God’s voice. The first is to recognize it - we get so busy or distracted that we just miss it because, ironically, the God of the universe often speaks so quietly.

The second struggle is that even if we sense God is speaking, it’s so darn hard to figure out what God is saying. It takes a lot of reflection (that’s the first half of the Learning Circle - below) to gain clarity, and a lot of times that reflection involves wise mentors.

The third struggle is that once we gain insight into where God is calling us, so many times we just don’t want to go there. It seems too costly. It feels uncomfortable. So we resist.

Read back over the parable above, but before you do, take a moment and silence your shaming-self and try to open yourself to the Holy Spirit who loves you and wants what’s best for you. Now, with gentleness towards yourself and openness towards the kindness of God, reread that passage, waiting on the Spirit of Life (2 Cor 3:6) to lead you to flourish.

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Jesus's Vision For Our Lives

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. - Luke 6:47-48

It’s pretty easy to understand this parable as Jesus’s way of articulating his vision for each of our lives - that we would mature into someone who is so solid and strong and that the space around us would be a place where others could find welcome and protection in this dangerous world.

This week we’re reflecting on what it means to capture the little kairos moments each day that help us process what God is up to in our lives - to hear and respond to God’s call towards wholeness. At City Church we draw out that process with the Learning Circle, but today, let’s think of it a little bit differently. The Development Square (below) captures the big picture of the process of growth - we move through the different stages towards maturity. But HOW we move through each individual stage is by capturing the kairos moments (by going around the Learning Circle). So in any given day, you may be having multiple kairos moments on different sides of the Development Square in different areas of your life. A coworker may be affirming your gifts while a friend is challenging your faith while God seems silent while you are experiencing joy in romance… each of those may be a kairos in a different area of life and each may be on a different side of the square.

So today there’s a big picture question for you: will you embrace Jesus’s big picture vision for your life? Will you build a solid home, not just for your own comfort, but for the sake of those around you who need welcome and protection from the messed up world? Will you partner with him in the process of becoming who he sees you are, watching and listening for each kairos along the way?

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Time To Get Honest

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? - Luke 6:46

Jesus asks this question at the end of the Sermon on the Plain. We tend to skim right by it and read on into the teaching about the house built on sand vs. rock. But maybe we should answer the question first.

So let’s break this down. Do you call Jesus your Lord? Ok, now that that’s nailed down, do you do what he says?

Let me give you a hint as to the answer - it’s “No.” After all, in the verses just before this he talked about loving your enemies, not judging others, and giving to everyone who asks something of you. So I think the answer is pretty clear that, no, you do not do what he says.

So now we have to answer his question: Why?

Let’s take it as a real question and think about the different reasons why we don’t do what Jesus says to do. What motivates you, who call him Lord, to not do what he says?

  • What are the momentary urges that nudge you away from the ways of Jesus on an impulse, and what are your deeply held convictions that stand like a concrete wall between you and his teachings?

  • When it comes to your resistance, what is stirring underneath the surface of your soul - how much is laziness, how much is fear, and how much is simply being uninformed about his teachings?

  • Or are you just protecting yourself or trying to recover from religious people who misused his teachings to hurt you so you’ve vowed not to be hurt again and have allowed your skepticism to keep Jesus himself at bay?

There’s plenty to process here - be courageous and search for that kairos moment in it all…

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Digging Deep Into Your Life

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” - Luke 6:46-49

How easy is it to “dig down deep” to lay the foundation of a house by hand? Think of all the sweat, all the energy that must take. And how long does it take to “dig down deep” to lay the foundation of a house in the first century context, where there are no back-hoes and metal-tipped shovels are a luxury. It’s a LONG process! It takes a whole lot of shoveling to lay that foundation - shovelful of dirt after shovelful of dirt after shovelful of dirt.

The stated mission of City Church is to “hear and respond to the call of Jesus towards wholeness.” We represent that in the simple diagram of the Learning Circle (at bottom). Essentially, what we’re all about is helping people to dig into their lives and figure out what God is saying to them so that they can build the houses of their lives on God’s word to them. But it takes a lot of work. It’s like shoveling out the dirt to get down deep to the solid rock of the foundation. Each day that we listen for God’s voice is another shovel full of sand we clear out of our lives. Each time we share with a friend what we think God is saying and how we think we might respond is laying a big strong rock at the base of your house to make it strong.

Will you go on that journey with your church this week? Take a few moments and reflect on the Learning Circle below, using these words of author/pastor Frederick Buechner to stir up in you a desire to dig around in your life for what God is saying to you these days.

I discovered that if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it...there is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him...If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. -Frederick Buechner

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Praying About Politics

Your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. - Matthew 6:10

As we pray through the different aspects of the Lord’s Prayer/House of Prayer (at bottom), we’re going to close our week with seeking God’s priorities - his kingdom and his will.

Jesus’s prayer was not new in this regards. A dozen times in scripture we hear him quoting from the prayer book of the Bible, the Psalms. He knew those prayers by heart and they helped form his prayer life. So today we’re going to pray one of the psalms that Jesus prayed. It’s a psalm about our political priorities.

Praying about politics can be subversive. It can feel dangerous. It can also be very liberating - to name what really needs to be named in a world gone crazy. So as you pray Psalm 146, take a moment and pause after each line or two and then freestyle a little, adding a few sentences in your own words about what your heart is saying about the priorities you’re reading in the text. Let your heart align with God’s heart in this very political psalm.

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

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When Anxiety Drives Prayer

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. - Matthew 6:13

On Sunday, Shauna Miller shared about how often it’s anxiety drives her to prayer. As an Enneagram Type 6, she said she has struggled with “Mean World Syndrome.” Do you ever feel like everyone is out to get you? That the world is inherently dangerous? And do you find yourself mostly throwing up prayers when you’re feeling anxious and unsafe?

Sometimes religious folks can heap shame on people pray with those sorts of motivations. But perhaps Jesus is more gracious than we might assume. Perhaps he’s delighted to have us turn to him in prayer, even when we’re driven by our anxiety and less by his lovingkindness. Sure, there’s plenty in the Bible to suggest that he’d welcome our attention based on his goodness instead of on our fear, but like a loving parent, we often see God as being ready and willing to extend care regardless of what state of mind we are in.

So today, as we pray about the “protection” side of the House of Prayer (below), you are invited into your own heart. Take a few deep breaths right now and pay attention to your heart. How anxious are you about your day? How anxious are you about your safety (or the safety of your loved ones or your country or your world)? Perhaps these are the very things Jesus would love to speak with you about today - to deliver you from, to lead you away from. Talk with him about them, remembering that you can “Cast your anxiety on him for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

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What We Might Need To Confess

This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come and your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today
our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one. - Matthew 6:9-13

On Sunday as the five different speakers were talking about the five different sides of the House of Prayer (below), when it got to the Peacemaking side something interesting came up. Cody Miller talked about our need to make peace with one another and with God. In the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins” is covers reconnection with God, and “as we forgive others” covers our reconnection with others. But then he took it a little different direction.

As he led us in a short time of prayer, he invited us to consider if one of the blocks we have between us and God is that we blame God for the sins of the church. Because so many of us have been hurt so badly and so often by so many different Christians, we’ve tended to hold that against God - and maybe it’s time to talk directly to God about that and to let God go, so to speak. Maybe it’s time to recognize that God isn’t to blame for all the things the church has done wrong.

So if that’s you today, take some time to work that through with God. If not, just pray through the Lord’s prayer, pausing on each side of it and allowing different thoughts or faces or issues to surface and pray through those.

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The Foundation of Prayer

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” - Luke 11:1-4

Jesus called God “Father.” No one else did that. And beyond that, he called God “Daddy” (in Aramaic it was “Abba”). That was outlandish. But it took hold. Soon, Jesus’s followers were talking to God with a rare intimacy as well, even calling God “Daddy” (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6).

On Sunday we talked about the amazing prayer Jesus taught in the verses above (called the Lord’s Prayer) and we diagramed it as the House of Prayer (below). The foundation of that prayer - and the premise of all prayer - is that we have a God who loves us, cares for us, listens to us, and wants to connect with us. We have a “Daddy” if you will.

So this might be a stretch for you, but consider trying it: Start your day by laying the foundation of prayer. When you wake up in the morning (or when you remember), make the sign of the cross over yourself as a way to remember that you have a Heavenly Father watching over you this day. For those with little experience making the sign of the cross, commonly you take your right hand and start at your forehead and then drop it down towards your navel, then move it to your left breast, then to your right. Typically you utter a sacred word at each point of the cross, like, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” Some have adapted it and pronounce a blessing on themselves like this: “Beloved child, God’s delight.” You can get creative, speaking the words you need to ground yourself in God’s love.

The idea is to physically engage in the process of identifying yourself with the God of the universe who is your heavenly parent, who loves you and is watching over you this day - and thus laying a new foundation for your day.

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Who Did You Learn To Pray From?

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” - Luke 11:1-4

Jesus’s followers asked him to teach them to pray. Who did you learn to pray from? Was it from your parents? From the movies? From a being in a church service or reading a book?

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Maybe none of those are wrong answers - perhaps they are all helpful because they remind us we all need teachers to grow. This week we’re going to think about this remarkable prayer, but let’s start by remembering the stages of growth the disciples went through (and we all go through) in all areas, including in prayer.

You get the sense that at these verses come at the D1 stage in the disciples’ journey of prayer and Jesus is laying out some of the basics of how to go about it. Soon enough they would be in the D2 stage and have real struggles in prayer, like we all do, and they will be asking “Why didn’t God answer our prayers and deliver that child from evil?” (Mark 9:28). When we’re in the D2 stage we no longer need basic information, we really need someone to walk along side us, to be patient with us, and sometimes to do the praying for us.

That passage in Mark 9 is a great picture of the D3 stage of prayer as well, but for a different character. That’s because Jesus challenges the boy’s father to trust in him (the essence of prayer), even though it was a hard thing to do. Jesus was inviting him into the process of healing, and the man took a big step of faith when he said, “I believe; help my unbelief” - recognizing his own agency in asking God for help.

Then there are so many prayers in the letters in the rest of the New Testament where you can see people like the Apostle Paul have entered D4 and have become mature enough to pray on their own, to trust God on their own, and to help others pray and trust God as well. For example, this short prayer in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Close your time by talking with God about what stage you’re at in regards to your prayer life and who might be a someone you could talk with about that. Then pray that prayer from Luke 11 and/or 2 Thessalonians.

Walking in Wisdom

Walk with the wise and become wise; a companion of fools suffers harm. - Proverbs 13:20

Wisdom has a way of rubbing off on us, as does foolishness. It actually matters who you spend your time with, who you look up to (which includes who you follow on social media, for example). Wisdom starts in choosing to be around wise people.

And what if we thought of wisdom not just as an accumulation of knowledge or the best approach to making decisions - but what if instead it was based in a clear, humble, and discerning understanding of your own self? That would mean, according to this parable, that the more you spend time with those who are self-aware and present to themselves and their world (and their God!), the more aware you will become to yourself, to the world, and to God.

So try that definition of wisdom on for today… and see how God might meet you on the journey of becoming who you were meant to be.

Mentors and Books

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. - Luke 6:39-40

At this point in the week as we reflect on the process of growth, it might be helpful to take a step back into the theme of living a connected life. Remember the crucial connections: UP towards God, IN towards community, and OUT towards the world? Well, it turns out we need mentors in each of those areas to help us become ‘fully trained.’ We can get overwhelmed by doing too much at one time (like trying to find all seven mentors at once) and the same thing applies to trying to find mentors in each of the three areas of connection. But at the same time, there can be a temptation to sit back and just let one of those areas just languish and not grow and never look for a role model or mentor in that area.

So do some thinking - with where you are at in your life right now, would it be appropriate to seek to find a mentor in one of those three core connections? If so, what kind of mentor would it be? One idea might be to think about some possible reading (authors are great mentors!). Here are some examples:

For a general overview of all three connections and an introduction to this magnificent mentor, try reading Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen.

UP: If you struggle with how to connect with scripture, maybe try Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired.

OUT: Maybe there’s a specific sort of way you want to engage the world, so start researching that. You may end up reading something like the wonderful Missional Mom by Helen Lee or God of the Oppressed by James Cone.

IN: Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly is the perfect first step towards growing in healthy community if God has put it on your heart.

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A Constellation of Mentors

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. - Luke 6:39-40

When Jesus talked about being ‘fully trained’ he clearly had in mind the idea of mentoring. A disciple was, after all, simply a student - someone who learned from a master teacher.

Sometimes we can put pressure on a person we deem a mentor by expecting too much of them. One helpful way to think about mentoring is to think about a constellation of stars - they link together, and some may be brighter or dimmer at times. And it’s the same with mentoring. There are different types of mentors that we each need, but no one mentor can fill all those roles. And at any given time, one or two mentoring roles will be more important. For example, early on in a Christian’s life, a discipler is really important; at a time of decision, a counselor is really important; etc.

So look at the image at the bottom and reflect on these different types of mentors. Talk with Jesu about the kinds of mentors you may need at this point in your life, so that you can continue to grow and develop into who God made you to be.

Discipler- A discipler is a more experienced Christian who imparts to a new believer the knowledge, skills and basics to grow in Christ. Disciplers affect the new believer’s character and behavior.

Teacher- The teacher provides knowledge and the ability to communicate that knowledge. Teachers offer perspective and enhancement to ministry.

Coach- This mentor knows how to do something well and how to communicate the skill.

Therapist- This mentor helps the mentoree identify, connect with, and integrate their emotional life, clarifying avenues of God’s work in their heart and its broader implications for their ministry.

Sponsor- The sponsor has credibility, positional, or spiritual authority within an organization, which enables a mentoree to develop and advance within that organization. Mentors often provide influence and protection.

Counselor- This mentor provides wise counsel and advice at crucial times, such as decision making and transition.

Spiritual Guide- A spiritual guide mentor is a mature follower of Christ who shares knowledge and skills related to greater spirituality. Spiritual guides offer accountability and insights for the mentoree’s spiritual growth.

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Gurus and Explorers

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. - Luke 6:39-40

There’s a new app (actually developed by a City Church person) called TurtleWise that helps people connect to potential mentors. One of the most interesting things about the app is that when you sign up for it you get to be both an Explorer (looking for wisdom) and a Guru (giving wisdom). The assumption is that we each have areas of strength and expertise and it would make the world better to share those with others.

How do you feel about the idea of imitating someone? Of being imitated by someone? Some of us struggle with one, some with the other. But Jesus assumes that both are standard. The purpose of being “fully trained” in the parable above is so that you can be the Guru to others - and yet Jesus knows full well that not a single one of us will ever be “fully trained” in the sense that we have nothing left to learn. What he’s doing is casting a vision for growth for us - both as continue Explorers and continue Gurus.

Who are your role models on the spiritual journey and how might you imitate them? (No doubt, they are not perfect - so ponder the sorts of ways you would like to imitate them and try to be aware of unhelpful or ill-fitting aspects of their spiritual journey that might not be helpful for you).

And who is imitating you? Are there ways you might want to grow more intentional in helping someone else around the Square (below)?

Talk with Jesus about these things.

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Needing a Teacher

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. - Luke 6:39-40

Jesus believed that people can grow and changed. He bet his life on it, in fact.

In this short parable he reminds us that if you want to grow, it’s critical to have someone further along than you. Look back over the parable - there are three types of person: the blind, the student, and the teacher. The blind are those who don’t know what they don’t know - and so they imitate others who don’t know. The students are those who know what they don’t know - so they seek out someone wiser than themselves. And then there’s the teacher - the one who knows something that they can impart to others.

City Church uses a simple shape to capture the process of personal growth through various stages, which we’ll look at tomorrow. For now, let it be enough that each stage includes both the “I” and the “You” - the teacher and the student. Think of it as a child who is learning how to read and being taught by a parent - in developmental stage 1 (D1) the child needs the parent to do all the reading and simply watches it happen; then in D2 the child starts to pick out a few words; then in D3 the child is putting together whole sentences and is just asking for help on tricky words; finally in D4 the child is holed up in their room reading for hours on their own.

The key is that the student embraces being a student. How do you feel about becoming a student, which means acknowledging your need to learn, your need of teachers in your life? Talk with Jesus about this need of yours, and ask him for help in embracing it and stepping boldly onto the journey of growth.

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Reflection On Loving America

Our friend, Josh McPaul, is a pastor of our sister church in Oakland. Yesterday he wrote Oakland City Church a very thoughtful reflection on being an American (by birth he’s Australian). It seemed worth sharing today to reflect on as we continue to seek to love our country as part of our call to follow Christ. Here’s his letter:

Dear Oakland City Church,
Happy Independence Day! I've lived in the United States for over 20 years now and been a citizen for close to 15. Almost all of those years have been here in Oakland, with a few misspent in New Jersey ;).

And during that time, I have heard all the complaints - about the U.S…. and about Oakland. Through civil rights, the war on terror, the healthcare debate and the 2016 election, I’ve heard progressives complaining about America and her sins. And through the homeless epidemic, the housing crisis and the crime, I have heard conservatives take potshots at Oakland and her troubles.
I’ve tried to be bipartisan. I’ve complained about it all.

But how should we as Christians celebrate this day? How should we be patriotic? It’s tempting for some to avoid celebrating and focus on the negative. Or to celebrate by turning a blind eye to the problems, or dismissing the problems as ‘not real America’. The recent controversy over Nike, Kaepernick and the Betsy Ross flag is merely the latest example of this.

I think we ought to love our country for the same reason we ought to love Oakland - for the same reason we ought to love the world, for that matter. We love them not because they are good, but because they are ours. And when they do bad, they are still ours. So, we still ought to love them even more. If we only love America because we think she is great, we will be blind to her faults. We will not love her, but only our pretend narrative of her. If we only love America when she shows signs of improvement, we make our love conditional and sit in judgment rather than hope.

In his book ‘Orthodoxy’, G.K. Chesterton has a long chapter on Patriotism, or love of country. Since Chesterton is an idiosyncratic (and British!) writer I won’t quote him here but I will summarize it. His thoughts help me. Chesterton says something really interesting;

“Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is.
Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

We love our city and our nation in the same way we love our children - because we bound to them. We are bound to our home - and the more broken it is, the more we ought to love it. Love sees and loves. I do not need to be optimistic about America. Nor about Oakland either. As a Christian, I think I am called to be faithful in loving both.And in doing so, I think I am better able to serve both. And better able to celebrate.

So, let’s not be blind to where our country has failed and still struggles. Let’s not be blind to our city’s challenges. But let’s not stop loving her and let's not stop loving our city! We don’t love them because they’re great. They become great because we love them honestly and generously. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Josh

Connecting UP

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

  • Luke 4:43-44

Jesus was deeply connected IN towards community, OUT towards mission, and UP towards God (see diagram below). In the past two days we’ve looked at the IN and OUT connections. Today we look UP.

After spending time with his friends at one of their family’s homes and then doing ministry late into the evening, Jesus slips out early to be alone. He finds a “solitary place” - which is another translation of the Greek word most often rendered “wilderness” or “desert.” Silence and solitude were Jesus’s friends, because in their company he was renewed in his relationship with the One he called Father.

Do you escape to quiet, secluded places? Do you sneak in time alone with God on a lunch break, while the kids are napping, or just sitting in your car in silence for a minute before getting out and going on to the next thing? The 20th century mystic and teacher, Henri Nouwen, put it this way: “We have to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gently healing presence of our Lord.”

Where is your desert? What wilderness might you cultivate, for just a few moments alone? Sometimes the silence there can be deafening, and yet without it, it’s just about impossible to find God. Even now for a brief moment, see if you can enter into that ‘solitary space’ to be with God.

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Serving the World

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. - Luke 4:40

While managing not to lose himself in the process and staying connected with his friends, Jesus spent his life giving to others, especially to those on the margins and those who were ‘messy,’ as in this passage. He lived a life of personal sacrifice - and was full of life while doing so. This is what we call the OUT corner of the Connection Triangle (below).

So many of us struggle to calibrate our serving and giving. We put too much of ourselves into it and feel like we get lost, or we isolate ourselves and get trapped in selfishness. We give money out of guilt or cling to it out of fear. And yet, when we do find that sweet spot of appropriately, healthily, sacrificially giving ourselves away, we experience fulfillment.

Today, process these questions with Jesus and speak with him about finding your way to a flourishing relationship with the OUT.

  • Where have you met Jesus in your giving to the world of your time, your heart, your money?

  • Do you struggle with giving too much or too little? With guilt or pride? With losing yourself or isolating yourself?

  • When it comes to the needs of the world, what issue, group of people, or part of the world holds a special place in your heart? What are ways you might listen to your heart and make a difference by serving/giving?

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Close Friends

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. - Luke 4:38

How often do you think of the fact that Jesus had close friends? He knew their moms and ate in their homes and travelled with them regularly (all referenced in the above verse). “I have called you friends,” Jesus says to the twelve guys he spent most of his time with (John 15:15). And fairly soon after starting his career as an itinerant preacher, Jesus settles in more closely with three of them - Peter, James and John. Those three get mentioned five times together as being with Jesus in private, and it happens increasingly throughout the Gospels, so it’s obvious that they got closer over time.

At City Church we talk about the IN part of the triangle (below) - that tight knit community of friends that you grow with emotionally and spiritually. Building that kind of community takes time - it did for Jesus, too.

Take some time today to think about how you’re doing in your close friendships, praying through some of these questions as you felt led by the Spirit:

  • Where do you grieve and where do you celebrate in the area of your close friendships?

  • Are there friends you spend a lot of time with but aren’t that close to?

  • Do they help you on your journey to grow into who God made you? Do you help them?

  • Are their people you might initiate towards to become better friends?

  • What might it look like to take a risk with a friend to pray together? To speak a challenging truth to each other? To take some other step towards making the friendship a stronger part of the true community you’re called to?

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Your Relationship With Yourself

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

  • Luke 4:38-44

Yesterday in the sermon we looked at the crucial relationships that lead to flourishing - UP towards God, IN towards community, and OUT towards the world (see diagram at the bottom). Jesus demonstrates all three of those in the above passage, which we’ll ponder this week. But before we do that, let’s note the fourth crucial relationship Jesus had.

Jesus had a proper relationship with himself. He demonstrated that he had differentiated from others - able to both give and receive (healing Simon’s mother-in-law as well as being served by her), able to say yes to people and able to say no (staying up late to in response to people’s requests for healing and yet denying their demand for him to set up shop there), and able to spend time comfortably both with people and alone.

How is your relationship with yourself? Are you able to both give and receive, to say yes and to say no, to be equally comfortable with others and alone? Take some time to think about these things with your Savior and to gain insight before we move on to the other crucial connections this week.

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