The pandemic has brought about a lot of changes this year. For one, it has invoked a whole new meaning to the phrase “home for Christmas.” Sure, our holiday plans look quite a bit different this year, but one of my primary laments is I deeply miss church. Many parts of the United States differ in their various COVID restrictions, but where I live in California, we have not been able to gather as a Body since March. Our church is one of the larger churches in San Jose, so we have had the ability and resources to produce a lovely online service. We can still have “church from home.” We still have worship. Our pastors still teach and speak to our hearts. We have had baptisms and guest speakers and missions updates. We take communion – separate but together. We meet for Bible studies, prayer groups, and other ministries […]
When you think of a city where God is actively moving and doing wondrous works, what do you think of? What do you hope for God to accomplish in your city? I have a hope and prayer for my city that looks like this: For God’s presence to be felt in the city like it feels during an outdoor worship experience where God’s joy, hope and commission is palpably tangible. I pray that nonprofits work together; local pastors be united; people chained to addiction and brokenness be set free; for Christians across the city to have the benefit of Christian co-workers “in their corner” that encourage each other to lead with integrity, conviction, and love. I pray for city-wide discipleship: for older folks to show younger folks how to follow Christ. I pray for Christians to love their neighbors so well that people are drawn to wanting to know who […]
First Incident “What are you going to do about your career so you can make sure you are more available to your husband’s emotional and sexual needs? You should get him a feelings chart so he can process his deep pain that’s leading him to these behaviors. You need to make sure you are fulfilling his desires so he won’t be tempted.” – Sarah I was shocked. Was I really hearing this right? I was in a group with 3 women from church whom I met with weekly. The purpose was to spend intentional time together and foster intimate sisterhood. As I shared about what had been challenging, I alluded to some recent struggles in my marriage. “What’s been going on with your marriage?” Sarah had asked. I had 2 options: exercise discretion and hinder vulnerability or step out in vulnerability and hope it would open up a new depth […]
The words plunged into me like a dagger: “Jessica, In this case, you were wrong. You were manipulative. You inserted yourself to be part of a group where truth is, not everyone would welcome you. I ask that you make arrangements at a different hotel.” My church was going to a highly anticipated conference, and my former church, halfway across the country, wanted to attend but had missed out on early sign-up benefits. During a 5-day visit with my friend, she expressed disappointment about the missed opportunities. I extended my church’s resources (with their permission), which she graciously accepted… and then the above message popped into my inbox, written by her husband (and my former pastor). He heard through the grapevine – not his wife, and assumptions were made about my intentions and the reach of his authority. OUR CHURCH HURT When people tell me they are apprehensive about the […]
“Lord, I lay down my life for you.” “Really? Will you lay your life down for me?” Jesus asks Peter in John 13:38 (NLT). Will I lay my desires for my career, my free time, my ambitions, my relationships, my reputation for Our Father? Well, I don’t know. I’m willing to lay down maybe one of those, maybe I’ll give one night a week to serve a person or a community. Maybe I’ll begrudgingly accept that the reason I didn’t get those jobs over the years: God didn’t want me to have it. See, Lord, I’m sacrificing my will! So I thought. I thought this could the extent of the sacrifice. Except that once we pray the prayer, we have asked God to do more than what we may realize. When fear debilitates us or anxiety overcomes us, and we question God’s will for our lives. For me, it’s at […]
This guy was worshipping Jesus more fearfully and fearlessly than anyone I had ever seen in my entire life. He was praising Jesus like no one else was in the room. Or, better yet, like Jesus was actually in the room. Like a complete madman. No joke, it was as if he was just set free from prison and ran straight to the service. He was clapping, dancing, shouting, hands lifted and at times crying with his face to the ground. I turned to my husband and he nodded in agreement, “This guy gets it.” But church, do we? Do I? I looked around the room, to the 1,000 men and women, and saw perhaps a different type of fear than this worshipping man. I saw a fear of man. A fear that was more concerned with how we looked to our neighbors than to God. A fear more consumed […]
When I first started reading the Bible, I was very confused about some of the great people of faith doing questionable things. Why were these people (I thought) I was supposed to look up to morally committing such terrible sins? Was the Bible condoning these atrocious things they did? Why were people offering up their daughters to be raped? Why did Noah get drunk and lay naked after the ark? Why did Solomon take so many wives and concubines? The Hall of Faith, as Hebrews 11 is often referred to, lists murderers, adulterers, and liars, yet these people were commended for their faith. I had first assumed these Bible stories were supposed to be about all good, upright, moral people and how we should emulate them. But I was wrong. The Bible isn’t a book about good people, but about a good God who chooses to use messy people.