Finishing the 30 day challenge: Why do you live in your city?

Meeting with a group of leaders last month who love, live or work in downtown Los Angeles, I asked them to consider this one question: Why are you in LA?

Lots of people to move to LA for the weather, to make money, to get famous, for a job and for many other good reasons to help improve and further their life. But Christians must consider if God brought them here not to further their lives but to further God’s kingdom. Perhaps God has brought you here, not to make your name great, but to make His name great. This led us to consider what can we do together to bless the city.

We’ve been challenged these past 30 days and ask ourselves this simple question, reflecting on why we live where we live and to consider if we live there for a greater purpose than pursuing our own dreams.

Perhaps God has placed you here for a purpose beyond your limited vision yet using every aspect of your skills, education, network and resources.

At Union Church we are trying to ask questions that aren’t focused on blessing the church but how we can bless the city and the neighborhoods that we find ourselves in.

If we truly believe that God has called us to the cities in which we live then we begin to have the perspective the God hasn’t brought me to this place to bless myself and to make my name great but to bless the city and make His name great. We begin to get a new set of eyes for our neighborhood. Our eyes hear things differently. Our feet take us to different places. We might even get to know the names of our neighbors!

So many come to cities to get something from it but Jeremiah 29:7 tells us to be part of the prospering and blessing of the city, bringing the holistic shalom of God into every ordinary aspect of life.

This is the 7-11 Principle that I’ve shared about before. “You don’t get 11 until you do 7.” You don’t get the blessing of God until you are a blessing to your city.

God blesses those who bless the city in which they live.

So what brought you to the city in which you live? Perhaps God has brought you there, not just so you could advance your life, but so that you could advance God’s kingdom and make His name great.

I hope take the past few weeks to reflect on why you live where you live has led you into a deeper time with God as you offer your life to Him to use for His purposes.

Check out what we’ve been talking about at Union Church as we seek to Love God and Bless the City.

 

Three amazing answers to prayer this past week

We’ve been going through a series on the Generous Life: Grace, Gratitude and Joy and learning how all three words are connected linguistically in the Bible as well as spiritually. When we recognize God’s grace in our lives, it gives us a deep feeling of gratitude that naturally leads to joy. A joyless life means there is no recognition of God’s grace and thus no recognitions of gratitude towards God’s good an unearned gifts.

Well, I didn’t want too much time to pass to fail to mention three specific prayers that God answered this past week in the life of our people at the Bridge at Union Church in downtown L.A.

#1 A woman heard her sister had a progressive cancer giving her only a week to live so she fasted and prayed last Sunday and found out a few days later that the doctors are shocked that they can’t find any traces of cancer anymore!

#2 Five Japanese students visiting L.A. connected with our church and last Sunday invited Christ to lead their lives!

#3 Last week a young man who just started attending our church asked to meet with me and decided to invite Jesus to lead his life!

Amidst a challenging week for me for several reasons, I can have a godly joy because of gratitude toward God for His grace moving in peoples’ lives mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

Before I go to bed I often do the ancient Christian practice of Examen: reflecting on the highs and lows of the past 24 hours and where God is in those moments.

I have three huge highs to reflect on and be grateful for. It reminds me that God is there amidst the lows as well and that He continues to be the good God that He has always been and will always be.

What are you highs and lows of the last 24 hours? Where is God revealing His presence in your life?

 

A Word for Kiersten and Blake

I had the privilege of officiating the wedding for Blake Robertson and Kiersten Johnson last week. Using the Colossians 2 passage they chose, I shaped a message about the new song they would be writing with God’s help as they become husband and wife. Below is what I shared with them as their family and friends listened:

The Scripture read today talks about singing. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

Singing has always been central to followers of God throughout the centuries. Not only are we instructed to sing songs about God and to God, I believe we are to remember that God himself is a singer. Zephaniah 3:17 says that God sings over you. That means God is a singer. He likes to hear music and He likes to make music.  I believe that God had you in mind when He made the world. Before you were born, you were already on His mind.

Listen to these lyrics from the song “I Will Show You Love” by our friend Kendall Payne that will be performed in just a few minutes:

I am on your side
Though the wind and waves
Beat against your faith
You were on my mind
When the world was made
Trust in me my child

This song you have chosen is about God’s unbreakable love for you and how He had you on His mind at the creation of this world.

I believe that at creation God sang the world into being. Genesis 1 should be read as a song. In fact, all of creation is His song. Ephesians 2 says that each of you are a song of God, literally a work of art shaped by God. So when you come together as husband and wife you aren’t just marrying your best friend, you are marrying a work of art! Now sometimes you won’t see your spouse as a work of art and instead you’ll think you married a piece of work! When the dirty clothes don’t land in the clothes hamper and the toothpaste isn’t squeezed properly and one of you would rather go out with your friends instead of hanging out at home…it’s hard to remember that each of you is a work of art and not a piece of work!

But the privilege you get as husband and wife is to help your spouse discover how beautiful they are in God’s eyes and help them to see the better self that God has intended them to be. We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but God wants to keep shaping each of you more and more into His likeness: more compassionate towards the poor, more giving with your resources, more ready to forgive, more courageous to speak up against injustice. Though we’ll never attain perfection this side of heaven, as each of you help the other to remember they are a work of art each day, you’ll help them become the person that God had always intended them to be.

Marriage is a great shaper of our lives and you each get the privilege of seeing the beauty of who God has intended your spouse to be and then work hard to help your spouse become that person: that person who is more loving, kind, giving, creative, free and selfless. Marriage is the great furnace of God’s refining process.

Your job as husband and wife is to see your spouse as God’s work of art, God’s beautiful song. Your job is to help your spouse remember that they are God’s song. Because when you forget how loved you are in Christ, you’ll start trying to feel loved by other things. When you forget that you are a beautiful song of God then you’ll start looking for beauty and strength from money and achievement and impressing people. When you forget you’re loved by God you’ll try to win arguments instead of making a compromise. You’ll demand your rights instead of seeking the best for the marriage. When you forget you are God’s work of art you’ll start trying to make your job or your bank account or your body or your resume make you feel important and beautiful again.

But when you remember that you are God’s work of art then you are already beautiful! You are already eternally significant! You are already precious in God’s sight. So don’t let your spouse forget that they are a work of art in God’s eyes, that they are a beautiful song of God that will one day be complete when Christ returns. Your job is to remember amidst all the imperfections that your spouse is a song of God that God has created and that one day will be completed when Jesus returns.

Blake and Kiersten each one of you is unique with different family histories and different stories that make you who you are. As you come together as one you are combining two different songs. It’ll take time to create your own song but know that God is the great songwriter and He knows how to make it all fit together. Bear with each other as you figure out what key to sing in, as you decide which lyrics to keep and which ones to add and which ones to change. Healthy marriages don’t try to force one spouse to fit into the other’s song structure. Healthy marriages seek to make their own unique song from the lyrics and melodies of their own individual song. And God will help you write this new song as You continue to listen to Him, finding your identity not in what you do or what you have or what people say about you but who you are in Christ. You are making a brand new song so enjoy the process and give grace to one another as you stumble along. Enjoy marriage and all the growth that God is going to bring to you through becoming husband and wife.

Let’s pray:

God thank you for bringing Kiersten and Blake together this day. Each is a beautiful song of Yours and when they come together help them to write a brand new song as husband and wife, one flesh from two people united by Your Spirit. Amen.