Recommended Podcasts - August 2018

As disciples of Jesus, it is a privilege to continue to learn and grow as we seek to become more like Jesus. Below are a few helpful and thought-provoking podcasts that really inspire one to love Jesus more. 

Community as a Team Sport

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Genesis Collective is a new church down in Costa Mesa, California, that is really tapping into something beautiful as far as how to "do" church. In their latest teaching, "Community as a Team Sport," they talk about the importance of community and how isolated Christianity is heresy.  God sets the lonely in families, not Sunday services (Psalm 68).


Radically Ordinary Hospitality

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We've referenced Rosaria Butterfield a couple of times over the past few weeks in light of Jesus' eating and drinking with people far from God. Have a listen to this talk that Rosaria gave on this subject. It bleeds Jesus. 


What Are We Talk About When We Talk About God?

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The Bible Project's recent podcast series on the subject of God is a mind-blower. 
Did you know that God is the "God of gods?" (Deut 10v17). So are there other gods out there? Is the "let us make," in Genesis 1 a reference to the Trinity or something else? Personally, these podcasts inspire me to love Jesus more as I study the Bible.


Two Ways to Love Your Enemies

As Jesus teaches and preaches the good news of God’s kingdom, Jesus calls his apprentices to practice his teachings and redefines what it means to truly be human. In Jesus kingdom, Jesus’ followers are called to love like Jesus loves. 

This means even loving our enemies.

The last two paragraphs of Matthew 5 are some of the hardest words from the mouth of Jesus. 

Turn the other cheek.

Go the extra mile.

Love your enemy.

Pray for those who persecute you.

Be perfect.

In a cultural moment that is filled with divisions and vitriol, this teaching of Jesus is vital for his apprentices to take seriously and practice.

On one hand, Jesus’ call to love our enemies is impossible. Human beings are halfway decent people when they hang out with their own tribe, and even then that can be suspect. 

But the moment you get human beings hanging out with other human beings that aren’t the same…

Whether that be
cultural, 
national,
social, 
political, 
religious, 
you name it.

Human beings tend to be more animal-like than images of their Creator.

Just look at human history.

But in Jesus’ vision of what it means to be truly and completely human, apprentices of Jesus love even their enemies.

But how? 

Without being captured and in grateful awe of Jesus’ cross-shaped enemy love for you on the cross you will never truly be able to love your enemies.

To the degree that you are in awe of and relish in God’s love for you while an enemy and sinner, is the degree to which you will allow God’s transforming love to work in and through your life toward your enemy.

But how? How might this look practically in day to day life?

Jesus is a brilliant teacher. 

After all, he is a Rabbi.

Jesus gives these massive and inspiring and convicting statements like “love your enemy,” but still brings that down to everyday life.

Jesus gives two small steps that you can put into practice to love your enemy.

Pray for Your Enemies:

The first one is praying.

Yes, pray for them. (Matthew 5v44)

Not that their car would break down.
Not that they’d be late for work
or a nose hair would go rogue on a date.

Not that a tsunami would hit their county.
Not that all the people who disagree with you on whatever hot-button cultural issue just magically go away.

But pray for their well-being.
Pray for God’s favor.
Pray for God’s mercy.

Often times God wants to do something in you through these moments of prayer.

Sometimes all you can pray is a monotone and honestly heartless “God bless them.”

That’s ok. 
Start there.

Not all at once, and definitely not right away, God often wants to bring freedom in your life.

Often times we can live in the past of what our enemy did to us.

Whether that be last week, last year or even a decade or two ago, we can easily be held captive.

Bitterness and un-forgiveness hold us in a prison that we ourselves lock. 

That’s not God’s heart. 
Through prayer, God often wants to free us from bitterness and un-forgiveness.

God also might want to change our perspective on how we view
a person
a co-worker
a people group, 
a group that’s advocating for something, 
a race
a culture, 
a nation
a you fill in the blank.

GREET YOUR ENEMIES:

The second small creative step forward toward loving our enemies is to greet them.

Yes, greet them. (Matthew 5v47)

Say hello.
Look them in the face and say hello.

Maybe with a smile?

Greet them.
Acknowledge they exist.
Acknowledge their humanity.

And perhaps overtime that will lead to more conversations and interactions.

Who knows. 

Jesus was always greeting and even eating with who were considered enemies of his day. 

Pagans.
Roman soldiers.
Prostitutes.
Tax-collectors.
Diseased people.

Jesus is the ultimate enemy lover. 

As a follower of Jesus, Jesus has loved you through death into life in the kingdom.

And in this Kingdom, 
enemies aren’t hated, 
enemies aren’t Facebook ranted about
enemies aren’t gossiped about
enemies aren’t dealt violence and revenge

Enemies are loved. 
 

Jesus Center Church Worship: Spotify Playlist

JESUS CENTER CHURCH WORSHIP

Our Jesus Center Church worship team is an amazing group of young men and women who love Jesus and love worshiping Jesus. Together we have created a list of songs that they'll be regularly choosing from for our Sunday gatherings. If you'd like to listen throughout the week and learn some of the lyrics, we have created a Spotify Playlist that you can listen to!

Jesus and Breaking the Chain of Evil with Love

This Sunday, March 18, we'll be looking at one of Jesus' most important teachings. In our cultural moment that is filled with so much hate and division, Jesus' teaching on enemy love is vital for apprentices of Jesus to put into practice. 

When followers of Jesus ignore and sidestep Jesus' teaching on enemy love, some of the worst moments in human history occur.

When followers of Jesus take seriously and practice Jesus' teaching on enemy love, some of the most beautiful and life-changing moments occur.

Hope you can join us this Sunday!

 

What Does Spiritual Conversion Look Like?

The following is a response to a question that came in via our question and response time. At the beginning of each Sunday gathering, we have a time of question and response where people can text in questions (831-204-0497). All questions are anonymous. The goal of having a time of Q+R is to model one of our core values: being a safe place to talk about and work through anything. In addition, we hope that these questions allow for more interaction and discussion as we grow in community.

 

What does spiritual conversion (becoming a Christian) look like? Or how does one know that they have been born again? Or saved?

First, just a few things that spiritual conversion is not.

  • Spiritual conversion doesn’t look like saying one particular prayer.

  • Spiritual conversion or becoming a Christian is not something you earn or work for.

  • Spiritual conversion or becoming a Christian does not require you to know in depth biblical theology.

On one hand, spiritual conversion looks like a lot of different things.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like Zacchaeus giving back fourfold the money he stolen, as Jesus then says salvation has come to this house.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like a Roman soldier declaring that Jesus is the Son of God and thus Caesar is not.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like Peter where one day he drops his nets to follow Jesus, one day he says that Jesus is the Christ and then gets called Satan three minutes later, denies Jesus and then preaches and thousands get baptized.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like Paul getting knocked off his donkey, becoming blind but then realizing Jesus is the Messiah and that his violence against God’s people needs to stop.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like selling all that you have and giving it all up in order to become apprentices to Jesus.

  • Spiritual conversion looks like saying to Jesus in your last breath, “remember me when you come in your kingdom”

My point is that “spiritual conversion” looks different, yet the same.

Different in that everyone’s story isn’t all the same, but key components are consistent and necessary.

Mainly repentance or turning from your sin and then placing your faith and trust in King Jesus in his life, death, burial, and resurrection despite your sin.

  • Or in the language of Jesus: turn around and believe the good news. (Matthew 4)

  • Believe that Jesus is King and that his kingdom is here and is coming and that’s he’s made a way for those who’d turn from their sin to be made new if they’d trust in what he’s done for them on the cross. (Matthew 4)

  • Or again in the language of Jesus: believe in God’s only son and you will have eternal life, which is life with God that starts now. (John 3v16, John 17)

  • Or in the language of Paul: confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you will be saved. (Romans 10)

It’s the recognition that despite my sin, shame and brokenness, King Jesus loved me and gave himself for me. It looks like God’s spirit breathing life into the walking dead.

It’s all a work of God.

It’s a choice I have to make.

Both are true.

This is all a gift of grace.

He is making all things new and is inviting me to be a part if I would turn from my version of the good life and trust in Jesus, trust in his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the dead is the only way

What is true of Jesus then becomes true of me.

So if I was talking with someone at the grocery store checkout line, and someone said on the spot with only 30 seconds before they had to go, what does spiritual conversion look like, how can I be saved and become a Christian?

My answer would be: do you believe that despite your sin, Jesus the one true King and Lord of all loves you and gave his life for you on a cross? Do you turn from your sin and trust this Jesus who is resurrected, ruling and reigning overall for a new life?

If the answer is YES, then welcome to the Kingdom of God. You are now an apprentice or disciple of King Jesus.

If I was talking with someone in my living room over good food and drink and we had hours and hours and someone asked, what does spiritual conversion look like - how is someone saved?

That conversation would include all that I just said and perhaps more.

  • What part does man play?

  • What part does God play?

  • What role does the Holy Spirit play?

  • At what exact moment are you saved?

  • How do big words like justification, adoption, sanctification play a role?

And this is why there are hundreds of books written about this.

But, how does one know they are saved?

Do you believe that Jesus loves you and gave himself for you despite your sins and failure? Then know and have the assurance that you are saved.

For the person who is worried that they aren’t saved because perhaps they didn’t say the right prayer or whatever, I’d say to that person, do you believe that King Jesus loved you and gave his life for you despite your sin?

And if the answer is yes, then you are part of God’s Kingdom and family.




 

Change, Culture and Jesus' Plan to Make All Things New

Is Christianity a culture changing ideology?

The Jesus way is to bring about change in a culture. Change in individual lives and change in society at large. Even the call to be holy and set apart is a means to an end - namely joining in Jesus' mission of making all things new.

Throughout church history, much of the cultural change and progress has come through Jesus followers.

  • Advances in science and medicine were done by a large number of Jesus followers in the 16th-18th centuries.
  • Some of our nations finest educational institutions and hospitals were started by Jesus followers.
  • William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery, and Dr. King were all motivated by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Should our faith be kept out of social, civic, environmental thinking? Absolutely not. The first creed, “Jesus is Lord,” was at the very least a social, political and countercultural statement.

We dream that Jesus Center Church (JCC) would be a church in that if it ever relocated, the mayor and the city officials would mourn because JCC has been such an integral part of blessing and loving the city.

The short answer relates to one of the Q + R questions from a recent Sunday gathering:

What does it mean that our citizenship is in heaven? (Philippians 3v20) How does this play into our effectiveness here on earth?

That concept from Paul is very intentional and would have given the church in Philippi a reason to live out the Way of Jesus is such a way that Philippi as a culture and society would be transformed both in individuals giving their ultimate allegiance to King Jesus and through the work and service Jesus followers did in living out the Kingdom of God ethic in Philippi. Citizenship in the Roman colony of Philippi didn’t mean that one couldn’t wait for the day they went to Rome, but rather it meant that as a citizen of Rome, one was passionate about bringing the rule and culture of Rome to Philippi. In other words, our citizenship in heaven has little to do with longing for heaven after we die but rather informs how we are to live in the present as Kingdom citizens living out the peaceable, generous, loving Way of King Jesus in a culture of violence, greed, and self-centeredness.

In addition, Peter writes a similar line in one of his letters when he calls Jesus followers “exiles,” in this world (1 Peter 2v11). Some people take that to mean that “this earth is not my home, I’m an exile” therefore we really don’t need to have any involvement in seeing society and culture change as it relates to The Way of Jesus.

As one who was raised on the Jewish Scriptures, Peter is borrowing the language of exile from the Hebrew prophets. “Exile” referred to a specific time in Israel’s history when because of their repeated idolatry and injustice (so yes God expected Israel to live as a just society - seeking the welfare of the poor, refugee, widow, etc), God used the empire of Babylon to essentially destroy Jerusalem and take the Jewish people into “exile.” While in exile, God’s people are not sure as to how exactly interact with the culture of the day - namely Babylon. Jeremiah writes to them and says,

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29v4-7

In other words, don’t escape, don’t withdraw, but plant a garden, build a home, get rooted and seek the flourishing of the city - even if it’s Babylon.

So in the language of Peter, we as “exiles” are to seek the welfare and blessing and goodness of our city and culture.

What does this look like? How does this happen? That’s what I hope and pray JCC can be a part of as we as his followers are continually being molded and shaped more and more into his likeness and image. But I will say a good place to start might be the following:

Jesus seemed to think that as people turned from their version of what life is about and trusted in him and his message that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that they would begin to be and live as the humans that God intends all of us to be, although imperfectly. Humans, empowered by His Spirit, that love even our enemies, humans that serve and give generously, humans that bless and serve the marginalized and poor,  humans that live their lives in complete allegiance and devotion to King Jesus. Jesus commissioned his first wave of disciples to go make more of these types of humans. In doing so, Peter, James, John and later Paul and company began to start new Jesus communities throughout the Roman empire, that gathered weekly to celebrate and reorient themselves around this crucified yet risen King Jesus.

These small gatherings throughout the Roman Empire seemed to be one of the primary ways Paul and company sought to make disciples of King Jesus. As the teachings of Jesus and the apostles were taught, as bread and wine were broken and shared, as deep life-giving fellowship took place and as prayers of dependence and hope were prayed, lives were changed and more and more people began to give their ultimate allegiance to King Jesus. Overtime and in various cities, the culture was changed. For example, there was no longer a market for various idols to be made, as the city of Ephesus was being reached with the good news of Jesus (Acts 19). In later decades, the Roman official Pliny would comment as to why the followers of Jesus are caring for not only their own but even the sick and poor that aren’t. Roman society was being changed. Why? The risen Jesus was changing people. The Kingdom of God is here and is coming in the person of Jesus - and this is gospel, this is good news.

Do we bring the Kingdom or New Creation? NO, only Jesus does.

But as his followers, we are invited to live into this reality in the present day, a sign of coming attractions, that one day Jesus will completely make all things new.

The Bible starts in a garden and ends in a garden like city.

The Bible starts with creation and ends with the new creation. 

And in the middle of all that is Jesus of Nazareth who invites us into this story of transformation and change.

Paul says that if anyone is in Christ -- New Creation! (the “he is a” is actually not in the Greek)

We are walking talking bits of New Creation in the present, living in light of the future reality in the here and now. The invitation of Jesus is to live into that future reality in the present, both individually and collectively.

 

 

God's Judgement Is An Expression of His Love: Jonah 3

God’s judgement.

This is not a popular topic in our culture today. The talk of a God of anger or judgement brings up a lot of negative stereotypes. Maybe you think of an angry person with a sign on a street corner or someone who is extremely judgemental and legalistic.

Throughout the book of Jonah, and especially in chapter 3, the theme of God’s judgement comes into play. God has seen that the injustice and violence Nineveh is committing needs to stop. As God sends Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah preaches what is in Hebrew, a five-word sermon and somehow, Nineveh turns and repents. They believe God. Even the Assyrian King repents and declares that if they turn then perhaps “God will relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that they will not perish.”

Now isn’t that a wonderful idea about God?

That God is fiercely angry and that people might perish.

If you want to make no friends at a party, go ahead...grab your drink and stand in the middle of the living room and start talking about divine judgment. No one will want to talk to you.

For many people, the idea of a God of judgement is in deep contradiction to what so many people read in the Bible as far as a God of love (1 John 4v9). How do we as Jesus followers to think about these concepts?

There has been much writing and teaching that has been done over the years on this topic, but perhaps a good place to start is understanding that a God of love is not at all at odds with a God of judgement. The judgement of God is not the opposite side of God’s love, rather God’s judgement, his declaration, and definition of what is good and not good, is an expression of his eternal life-giving love.

The opposite of God’s love is not judgement but rather apathy. For the Creator King and God of the universe to look out on his good world and not care how humans treat each other is not a loving or caring God. That God would not be worthy of worship. But this King and Creator God looks out on his good world that he loves, upon his image bearers that he loves, sees what these image bearers do to one another and declares a judgement - this isn’t right.

This isn’t how God intended life to be.

God renders a judgement as an expression of his love.

But how does this judgement come to pass?

Is it through smiting people?

Is it through angry sandwich board signs?

Is it through commanding that people change their behavior and morals in order to receive grace?

No.

At the center of the good news of Jesus is the cross. The cross is where we see in perfect harmony the love and justice of God. Jesus takes into himself the consequences of your sin and my sin. He takes into himself the judgement that he has rendered - sin and death are not ok in God’s good world.

Jesus takes this judgement and it’s consequences into himself and because his love is stronger than sin and death, he leaves the power of sin and death in the grave and is raised to new life. Because of his work, he offers us the gift of being remade into new kinds of humans - all as a free gift of grace.

Humans that love and serve, even our enemies.

Humans that show compassion and generosity

Humans that trust Jesus’ judgement and definition of what is good and not good, and see him as the only source of true life.

God’s judgement is a beautiful thing. It’s an invitation to trust. It’s an invitation to life as it was really meant to be.




 

Part 2 - Why Jonah Runs: A Reflection on Jonah 1

The book of Jonah often gets associated with a large fish. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can detract us from the main point of the story. Jonah is a subversive story aimed at exposing the worst tendencies that form in God’s people, yet at the same time reveals God’s extravagant love for his people and those who are outside the family of God.

In the opening lines of this book, Jonah blatantly runs as far as he can away from God’s command to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire. Up until this point in human history, there wasn’t a more violent and oppressive group that the Ancient Near East had seen. Known for skinning alive their victims and prisoners, Assyrians were to be feared. As far as God’s people were concerned, Assyria would be the empire that would come to wipe out ten of the most northern tribes - they no longer exist. Assyria is enemy number one.

So when Jonah is commanded by God to preach God’s message to Assyria, you might think Jonah was scared or afraid. Perhaps he was. But what is interesting is that if you keep reading the rest of the story all the way through chapter four, we find the reason why Jonah runs away from the call of God. (By the way, chapter 4 seems to be missing from virtually every children’s bible. The story is vastly different without chapter 4).

In the last chapter of the story, Jonah complains to God and reveals why he ran away at the beginning of the story. He essentially accuses God for being too gracious and too compassionate and would rather die than see the Assyrians receive God’s love and mercy.

Jonah doesn’t run away because he’s scared. He runs away because he is full of racial prejudice. He runs away because he thinks his tribe is better than ‘that tribe over there.’ His kind are in, but them over there - they’re the outsiders and they have no part in God’s redemptive plan. Jonah’s pride, nationalism, and racism reveal his true motive for running away. His dislike of “the other” is motivating him to withhold grace and compassion. He has too narrow of a vision of what God in his love wants to do.

What the author of Jonah wants us to see is that this tendency can easily form inside our own minds and lives. When we elevate our kind, our tribe, our race over and against another we give into a dark demonic power that is antithetical to The Way of Jesus. Paul tells the ancient church community in Ephesus that King Jesus has and is breaking down barriers that once divided us and is creating new types of human beings; humans that serve and love one another despite ethnic, cultural or racial differences (Ephesians 2). In King Jesus we are invited into this multi-cultural family and kingdom where fear and disdain for “the other” and “outsider” is no more. All are welcome to turn and follow this Jesus and his way of being more human. Jonah misses out, but the invitation is to see that Jesus has gone after us, the outsider, the other, the enemy, and is inviting us to participate in this mission of grace.

Part 1 - Why God Pursues: A Reflection on Jonah 1

If you’re familiar with the Bible, probably one of the first things that may come to mind when you think of the book of Jonah is a giant fish or whale. You also might think of a talking cucumber. Now the story of Jonah includes a great fish and makes for a wonderful children’s story, but to really understand what the author of Jonah is trying to communicate we have to realize that the fish isn’t the main thing of the story and it’s a story requires a careful reading and rereading to comprehend.

Often conversations about the book of Jonah lead us down a rabbit hole of whether or not it’s possible for a man to be kept alive in the stomach of a fish and how if you don’t believe a man can be kept alive in the belly of a fish you are not taking the Bible seriously and sliding into theological liberalism. This is an important dialogue to have, but can often distract us from what the author is really trying to communicate.

What the book of Jonah is trying to do is essentially expose some of the worst tendencies that form in God’s own people, yet at the same time instill in us an open-mindedness to the expansive grace and love that our God has towards his people and those outside his family.

What God is inviting Jonah to see is the expansive nature of his love. When you read the opening lines of Jonah 1, God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh, yet just a few lines later, Jonah is running away on a ship going in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. God then has to send a violent storm to get Jonah’s attention. Now as a modern Western reader, many might think, “oh here’s God again commanding people what to do..he sure likes to do that doesn’t he.” Many people have a depiction of God that is distant, that is always commanding people what to do, and when you don’t do what this God says, he’s going to send lightning and come after you.

There are so many half-truths in that last paragraph. Of course, Jonah’s disobedience grieves and upsets God. Yes, the God and Creator of the universe commands our obedience. But stop and think about what is happening not only in the first lines of Jonah 1, but think about the way God has decided to work throughout human history.

From pages one and two of the Bible, God has bound himself with his image bearers to help spread more of God’s beauty and goodness throughout the world. As his image bearers, we partner with God in his mission and purpose. (As a side note, it’s important to realize that God had a mission before there was in on page three of the Bible. That’s another blog post though). For now, it’s important to realize that from the very beginning God has invited and partnered with humans to be a part of his wonderful story and plan.

God would do a much better job of ruling and having dominion of his good world apart from human beings. We, as human beings have made a mess of the place, yet still God invites and partners with us to seek redemption and the renewal of all things.

God would do a much better job at reaching Nineveh, yet in line with how God works, God is inviting Jonah to participate in God’s story. This invitation is an invitation to be more open-minded. An invitation to see that God’s love breaks our categories of who’s in and who's out and invites us to see that none are worthy, but all are invited to join in God’s grand story and plan.

This is why God is after Jonah. This is often why God is after us - to get us to be more open-minded to the expansive nature of who God is and what God’s love and mercy is all about. Jonah has too small a vision of life and of God’s love. God’s pursuing love invites us to see and participate in a story marked by category-breaking love.

The question becomes, will we submit ourselves to this God, or run away with a too narrow version of what life is all about?

This Man Welcomes Sinners and Eats With Them

In Luke 15, Jesus finds himself once again in a moment of confrontation with the religious leaders of his day. Jesus has gotten himself in the habit of pursuing and welcoming sinners and having meals with them.

Now meals in Jesus’ day meant everything. Who you ate with signified acceptance, friendship, and relationship. When Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, prophet and God incarnate comes to eat with lost, hurting, broken sinners, the Pharisees notice - and they aren’t happy. They mutter and complain in the opening lines of Luke 15 “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

This man

This man

This man

Hear the disgust and annoyance in their voices.

This man is accepting and eating and building relationships with the unclean, dirty and sinful.

But Jesus understands something about the human condition that we often forget.

We are ALL broken, unclean and sinful.

Yet Jesus’ love is constantly pursuing us no matter the cost. Jesus’ response to the “this man” of the Pharisees, is a parable. Specifically, “this parable.”

"This man" is the accusation.

"This parable" is the response.

What’s the parable? Well, it’s actually three stories, but in Jesus’ mind, they are all one parable. The stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons.

In each of the stories, one main theme is consistent - pursuing and costly love.

As you read the stories, pay attention to how Jesus tells each of the stories. With the lost sheep, the shepherd travels a great distance to bring back the one sheep. In the story of the lost coin, the women will tear apart her house to find that one coin. The father in the final story bears the shame and embarrassment the younger son caused him and provided an extravagant dinner party when the younger son returns. On top of that, the father pursues and invites the hard-hearted older brother to the party, even after the older brother publically shames his father. Just like the sheep which was lost and far away yet is pursued and loved, so is the younger brother. Just like the coin was lost right inside the home, near and close, yet is pursued and loved, so is the older brother.

No matter where you find yourself today, Jesus is pursuing. He is for you. At the same time, his costly and pursuing love requires a response. Jesus parable in Luke 15 doesn’t have a definite ending. What happens to the older son? Does he go into the party? Jesus doesn’t tell us and I think that’s intentional. Will his love evoke grateful acceptance and a turning toward Jesus with your entire life? Or like the hard-hearted religious leaders, will you grow more callous and infuriated with the liberality of Jesus’ love?




 

Why the Sunday Gathering?

As we begin meeting on Sunday evenings a question that often arises, is why do we have the Sunday service or gathering? What’s the point? Why do we need to do that?

This is a valid question in the sense that we should always be intentional as to why we are doing the things we are doing, especially as God’s people. For Jesus Center Church, the primary reasons behind the Sunday gathering are twofold: Celebration and Reorientation.

CELEBRATION:

From the beginning of the Jesus movement that started in first century Israel, Jesus followers found it necessary to gather on the first day of the week to celebrate their risen king. We find hints and stories of this happening throughout the pages of the New Testament. For them the resurrection story wasn’t something to trot out once a year, but something to be celebrated each week. Jesus is alive, he’s defeated death, victory is his, and because of this reality, our world is a different place - the kingdom of God is here and is coming. Jesus is making all things news - so we celebrate!

REORIENTATION:

Each week, as the first wave of Jesus followers met, they intentionally took the time to remember and reorient themselves around Jesus’ death on the cross by gathering together to sing, pray and read Scripture. In addition, one of the main ways this reorientation was expressed was through the taking of the bread and the cup. This meal is the “new covenant” fulfilling and bringing the whole story of the Hebrew Bible and the story of Israel to its climax. Even though humans have royally messed up God’s good world and each other through sin, God does not abandon us. Paradoxically, Jesus’ death and resurrection was his enthronement and victory over the powers of sin and death. What does this mean for us and our world? Death and sin do not get the final world. King Jesus does. Jesus announced that God’s kingdom is here and is coming. He declares that he is making all things new.

  • Jesus is restoring broken creation;
  • Jesus is unifying the most unlikely of people around himself;
  • Jesus is healing wounds and hurts;
  • Jesus is setting people free from sin and shame;
  • Jesus is inviting all to come to his table and kingdom.

As followers of King Jesus we are reminded and reoriented to this reality and truth and invited to participate in his kingdom each time we gather together to sing, pray, read Scripture and partake of the bread and cup.

CONCLUSION

In many ways, the Sunday gatherings of JCC are nothing new. There will be a few components that are fairly unique to a Sunday gathering like a time of question and response and the sharing of people’s stories every couple of weeks. But when it comes down to it, each Sunday we want to practice the ancient discipline of gathering together. Rejecting individualism, isolation and going our own way, we learn and practice The Way of Jesus and eagerly anticipate the things of the Spirit. We hope you can join us!



 

Weekly Prayer and Interest Meetings in Seaside

Jesus Center Church: Seaside, California

As we get ready to start Jesus Center Church, we have been meeting on a weekly basis on Wednesday evenings at 6 pm. About 15 or so adults and several kids have been gathering together to eat a meal, build relationships and pray together. 

Whether you are extremely interested in being a part of this new church plant, or you have lots of questions we want to invite you to come to one of our meetings. Since we are meeting in the Mattox home, email Aaron for the address and he will be in touch. 

LITURGY: Prayers for the People

Last night, (August 16), we had our third prayer and interest meeting. I was greatly encouraged by what Jesus is doing through our group. New people continue to come and relationships are growing. We also had the opportunity to share with each other personal prayer requests and then pray specifically for those concerns. 

One thing that was new was new for last night was the incorporation of a liturgical call and response prayer, "Prayers for the People." We won't always include liturgical prayers in our gatherings, but I thought that praying through something like this was both a challenge and an encouragement. For me, some of these lines are extremely hard to pray. On the other hand, some of these lines fill me with much hope and joy. Jesus' followers for hundreds of years across this planet have prayed this prayer. For us in 2017, it's important that we recognize that we are a part of a diverse and ancient people who have called out to God in prayer.

Below is the text of the prayer. The writing in italics are the group response portions.

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Let’s pray this way now, remembering that in doing so, we join the saints of past and present, ages and ethnicities, to be formed in our capacity to lament, to have compassion, and to be generous of heart. I will read the first part of the prayers, and then after each one, let’s respond together by saying “Lord Have Mercy.”

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the Holy Church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For Seaside and the Monterey Peninsula, for every city and community, and for those who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For our President, Donald Trump, for our Governor, Jerry Brown, and our Mayor, Ralph Rubio, for the leaders of the nations, and for all in authority, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For the good earth which God has given us, and for the wisdom and will to conserve it, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, for the refugee and immigrant, and for all who remember and care for them, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For the homeless in this city and all those who are mentally ill. And for those bound by spiritual possession and oppression, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For our justice systems, that they would protect and affirm the dignity of all communities and peoples, and that evil would not overcome good, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For the ways we ourselves have not acted justly, and for the absolution and remission of our sins and offenses, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

For all who have lost someone dear to them, let us pray to the Lord.


Lord, have mercy.

Defend us, deliver us, and in Thy compassion protect us, O Lord, by thy grace, we pray,


Lord, have mercy.

For Your Kingdom come and Your will be done, in our city as it is in Heaven.


Lord, have mercy.

If you are experiencing this prayer for the first time, be mindful of what may be stirring in your heart. Notice which of these prayers may have resonated within you. Notice which of these prayers may have stirred up some tension within you. Now bring those experiences to the Lord, and ask Him to meet you in them. 

Prayer. In Seaside as it is in Heaven.

Starting today, (August 16), we will be meeting on a weekly basis as we prepare to start Sunday gatherings for Jesus Center Church. At each meeting we will have a meal together, talk a little bit about the church and spend time praying together. As we close our meetings, we will partake of the bread and the cup to remind ourselves of why we are doing what we are doing.

When Jesus' people come to share a meal together and pray, Kingdom things happen. When Jesus was traveling around the Galilee two thousand years ago, he was constantly eating with the most unlikely of people, sharing life together and proclaiming the good news of God's in-breaking kingdom. As much as possible, we want to model doing Jesus' work, Jesus' way.

So we eat and pray. We eat and build relationships and friendships realizing that none of us are worthy, but all are welcome. We pray for God's will to be done in Seaside as it is in heaven. 

When Jesus is at the center and His good news of the kingdom is being lived out, love and blessing take place in a variety of ways.

  • Meals are eaten with those who would otherwise never eat together.
  • Broken relationships are restored
  • The poor are cared for
  • The refugee find a home
  • The marginalized are welcomed.
  • The city is blessed.
  • Families and marriages are healthier
  • Racial tension is healed
  • Jesus is seen and worshiped for who He truly is

Jesus' posture to the world is to invite all to turn from their version of the good life and to begin to practice and live out this new way of being human.

So join us! Each Wednesday at 6 pm, we will eat, pray and seek to live out Jesus' message of good news in our community.

 

Our Second Prayer Meeting

Jesus is really blessing and providing for this new church!

This past Tuesday, 15 of us gathered for our second prayer and interest meeting. Several new people came for the first time as we continued to get to know one another, have a meal together and pray! It was really encouraging to see a variety of people building relationships and talking together throughout the evening. Before we prayed together I shared briefly on one of our core values: being a community where it is safe to talk about and work through anything. We talked about what this means in three ways.

  1. Being a community where it is safe to have questions and doubts.

  2. Being a community where it is safe to grieve and lament.

  3. Being a community where it is safe to not be a Christian.

Below you can listen to a podcast or read the blog post that goes more in depth on this.

Because we desire to be a church that is truly centered on Jesus we want to allow for safe spaces for people to be in process and work through difficulty. At the same time, we believe and trust that Jesus meets us in these hard, messy and uncertain places and offers us beautiful truth and hope that leads to Him.

As we continue to pray and meet together for Jesus Center Church, we will begin meeting weekly.

Meetings will now happen each Wednesday (starting August 16) at 6 pm in our home in Seaside. We also have plans to meet in local parks as well to begin being more present in the community. Either way, anyone is invited to join and learn more about what we are hoping to see happen through this new church plant. Email me if you are interested in coming. We’d love to have you!

Again, thank you so much for praying for us. I firmly believe that Jesus is working not just in our own lives but in the lives of many others who are partnering with us to start this new church. If you can, here are a few ways you can specifically pray for us.

  • Kid’s and Worship Ministry: Pray for the right people to lead and serve in these areas.

  • Sunday Morning Facility: Our most promising lead for a Sunday gathering space is the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Seaside. We are waiting to hear if their board will approve us for using their space. Also, pray that we can have a good financial deal with them.

In the meantime, follow us on social media and check out the blog and podcast.

Thanks again for your prayers and support.

Aaron

Safe to Talk About and Work Through Anything: Part 3

Safe to Talk About and Work Through Anything: Part 3

Christianity doesn’t have the greatest reputation today. Some of that is the fault of Christians. Some of that is unfair criticism. But as people who bear the name of Jesus and are supposed to be representing him well, we should care about Christianity’s reputation to the watching world. Now, this doesn’t mean we can or should try to correct every misconception, but this does mean we can and should make Jesus beautiful and strip away the ugliness that gets associated with him.

Now, what does this have to do with being a church where it is safe to not be a Christian?

READ MORE HERE.

Safe to Talk About and Work Through Anything: Part 2

Safe to Talk About and Work Through Anything: Part 2

We are continuing to look out in more detail on one of our core values:  We want to be a community that is safe to talk about and work through anything.

All four of our core values can be found HERE.

In the last post, we discussed the first aspect of this - being a safe place to doubt and question. In this post, we will look at being a community where it is safe to lament and mourn.

How do we avoid cliches and become a safe place to lament and mourn? Sometimes God doesn't feel good and present. Is that ok?

READ MORE HERE.