Thankfulness

 If I’m being honest, when I was asked to write a post about thankfulness, I was hesitant. This is something I’ve only recently recognized the power of. It’s relatively new in my life, and I felt maybe I wouldn’t have enough to say on the subject.

However, being that it’s a fresh concept in my life, I feel the weight of its significance wholeheartedly. This doesn’t mean I’ve never expressed gratitude before, but it has taken on new meaning as a daily ritual.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s the time of year when gratitude is brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds. But what about the rest of the year?

Until recently, I have been guilty of ‘seasonal thanksgiving’. Because of this, I never fully understood the power of gratitude. I was never able to see it do great work in my life. Over the past couple months, I’ve been humbled and stretched. Every day is just a little harder, and a little longer. It’s a season where God is really bringing my family the growth we need. With that, there are a lot of ‘growing pains’. Whatever season God has you in, ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

One mistake I think a lot of us make, myself included, is comparative thankfulness. Sometimes it’s easier to be thankful when we compare ourselves to other people, and what their lives look like. I don’t believe this is the kind of gratitude God is calling us to. God wants us to see His blessings in our life for what they are, and not at the expense of others. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, ‘Now there is great gain in godliness, with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.’

After reading this verse, and knowing I had so much more than food and clothing, everything has turned into a blessing. Because it is! There’s no need to look to others to gauge how much I should be grateful for when everything God gives us is good. Sometimes our expectations for what we ‘need’ become so high that it can feel like we don’t have anything we ‘want’.

On that note, it isn’t wrong to aspire to greater things, or desire more in our life, but if our aspirations or desires are keeping us from appreciating what we already have, we should ask ourselves if we would really appreciate having more.

Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation of all abundance.

What has really brought strength and added joy to my life is practicing gratitude. I recently discovered that being thankful causes your entire mind to shift. As someone who has struggled with depression for most of my life, I can confidently say there is no better medicine. I saw a wonderful quote that read, ‘What consumes your mind, controls your life’. If we’re giving our minds over to gratitude, we will look at our life and see abundance, joy, and peace. On the other hand, if our focus is on all we don’t have, we will see bitterness, anxiety and depression.

It can be easy to give ourselves over to negative thinking. When life gets hard, and things aren’t going the way we hope, our faith is shaken, and thankfulness can be the first thing to go. That is exactly where the devil wants God’s people. He wants us weakened by the world, hopeless, and ready to give in. 1 Timothy 4:4-5 says, ‘For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.’ Everything in our life can become a God thing. When we lean into Him, and let God take control, He will undoubtedly give us something to be thankful for.

A grateful mindset requires hard work to maintain, but after seriously putting it into practice, I can say it does get easier. Thankfulness is contagious, because it brings joy. It also encourages generosity, because when you view your life with abundance, you see just how much you have to give. ‘You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God’ (2 Corinthians 9:11).

Wherever your life is right now, I encourage you to give yourself over to gratitude. God is too generous to not pour blessings out on us in the hardest, or the happiest of times. Let’s keep our minds on things above, and allow our lives to look as full as they really are.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-        Maggie Isaac

The Church!

Acts 2:42-43 - They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.

What a beautiful community we are a part of, The Church! God's idea of people lifting up the name of Jesus, possessed by the Spirit of God to breakthrough strongholds, and adopted in as children of a loving Father.

The Church is also a place where families and individuals from all backgrounds come together with all their mess..yes mess! Dating back to the birth of the first church our community has been messy. Aren't you glad that God includes the drama in the scriptures? The Bible records a situation where a leader in the early church notices the hypocrisy of another leader and openly corrects him in front of the church staff. The best part of the story isn't the fact that the leader got "put on blast", but instead the focus is that God restored the relationship and used Peter and Paul to impact the world.  Another time the wealthy members of a church pressured church leaders into better seats in the church. An apostle named James calls them out and reminds them not to show favoritism. It goes on and on.

In spite of our mistakes and shortcomings we serve a God that continues to extend Grace to us when we don't deserve it. Take a moment and remember where God found you...pause and reflect on the fact that you are still a work in progress like the rest of humanity, but also remember you are more than able because of Jesus Christ. 

STAY IN GRACE.

- Pastor Jonathan

Looking Back!

Every year that goes by gives us the opportunity to grow. When we arrive into paradise with Christ we'll be learning. The Bible mentions angels singing "holy, holy, holy" and I can't help but imagine it is because God reveals just a little more of who He is and the response can only be, "holy, holy, holy." 

The scriptures teach us that we only know in part for now while on the earth but one day we'll be able to rewind and watch the full clip..yay..scary..awesome..idk . Looking back, what does 2017 look like for you?

I learned a lot about how weak, unqualified, stupid, and selfish I can be. I also learned that I'm more than able because of Christ Jesus. I asked God to "purify" me in 2017 and daaaaang I have a completely different definition for that word. It was a proactive year! I've always been a passive person but this year the Holy Spirit challenged me to confront, speak up, pray more, and listen more. 

As the year closes I regret to admit that I preached too many sermons that weren't prayed over. So, 2018 will be a year of practicing the presence of God in everything I do. I am loving what God is doing with my church family at LBDC but GET READY..there's more!

What are some of your resolutions?

- Pastor Jonathan

WHEN COMPASSION HITS

The other day I was driving home, I saw someone from my church on the street. I turned to my husband and said "There's...what's his name?", just then realizing I didn't know his name. I looked to my husband and said, "actually, seeing him, it hit me..he's homeless." I literally welcome him every Sunday with a smile, but during the week he doesn't even cross my mind. At that moment I felt a heaviness on my heart, I was extremely sad, and to the point of wanting to cry. The compassion of God hit me right there in the car! I realized how much more I need to open my eyes to see, my mind to think, and my heart to love with compassion for people as God does every second of the day. Now, after seeing him I can't stop thinking and praying for him to be okay, safe, fed, and warm. 

Since attending the LBDC I've seen people in different seasons with different needs. I have also seen how circumstances or life style choices do not change how we welcome people into God's house. I love how I could never tell if someone was visiting for the first time or if they were already a part of our church family. As soon as people walk through those doors, the love is never altered. I have seen people having conversations with each other and love how both individuals are genuinely engaged. I continue to meet new people every time, and enjoy the many opportunities to just love on people. 

It's easy to love and have compassion for friends and family, people you love, stay connected with, or see daily. After driving by and seeing my homeless friend that day I realized how much I wasn't loving or having compassion for ALL people the way God intended. As a Christian I'm supposed to be a light, people are supposed to feel and see God's love through me. I recognize that I was not allowing God to use me in that area. I allowed myself to selfishly get caught up in my own daily routine, life. I was slowly forgetting who I am, what I was created for, and who I was created to be. Forgetting God is Love and God is Life! 
I am grateful to God for always being on time. Thankful He planted me in a church where love and the Word of God is not only taught but evident.

"Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]..." 

1 CORINTHIANS 13:4‭-‬8 AMP

JACKIE HURTADO

Why Worship? 

It only takes a matter of seconds after logging on to any news outlet or social channel for the rise of fear and anger to begin to overwhelm our hearts.  No matter your resilience and positivity, fear can tip the scales of confidence within us. Our need to fill our hearts with truth and our minds with faith has never been greater. 

The bible says “My heart is confident in You, oh God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!” Psalm 57:7 (NLT) 

To remain confident in God we must seek him, experience him and put our attention to him.  We must worship. 

Worship is about attention.  Worship directs our attention away from our problems & circumstances and places it on a loving God whose word is armor. Worship takes our eyes off of our busy lives and places it on Jesus.  

Attention also removes the veil of distance.  It puts us face to face with the living God. Our loving God. It is when we seek an experience with God, we are able to find confidence in his vast grace.  When we turn to Jesus, we then are free to transform to become more like him.    

Worship is healing.  Although we can’t see it happening, there is a devoted enemy that seeks havoc on everything that matters to us: our hearts, our minds, marriages, families, dreams, confidence.  Armed in our own strength we are weak but when we are protected by the grace of God, we find healing.  

Worship allows us to be honest with God.  He sees all of our thoughts: hidden sins, unforgiven hurts, doubts, fears, anger.  He sees it all but when we come in worship, we surrender all of that.  We ask God to come in and let the spirit heal us.  We experience the power of God’s presence and love.  

“Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you.” Exodus 23:25 (NIV)

Worship is for God.

Isn’t it amazing that God tells us to worship but it’s not something he needs.  God doesn’t need us to worship, we need it.  It’s one of the many things he has designed specifically for us.  Specifically to draw us closer to him.  He has given us the instructions on what we can give back to Him in gratitude.  

Psalm 150:6 (NLT) “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

As Pastor Jonathan says "Worship is an outward expression of an inward affection.” 

Worship shouldn’t be limited to the songs sung in church but rather viewed as a lifestyle.  A life of praise.  A willingness or mandate to be worshippers always, in everything and everywhere we go.  That is to have a worshippers heart. 

Let's worship together. 

Blessings and joy,

Jessica 

We All Get Frustrated

Philippians 1:6 - “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”

I remember being 18 years old sitting in a coffee shop watching couples walk-in holding hands with BIG smiles on their faces. Have you ever been single and noticed just how happy they are? Man, the struggle was real for me..I had acne on my face and no lady to chase. It was a very frustrating season. 

We all at times get overwhelmed, exhausted, or over scheduled. Whether it’s current events or relationship issues (every relationship has them, 100%) the problem almost seems impossible to overcome. I find myself frustrated about the things I can’t control…one day it hit me!! I had finally realized it..frustration is one of the the biggest thieves of potential..it keeps us from doing anything productive. Frustration shows us the big mountain we must climb in order to overcome, all while God is simply asking us to take the first step on the trail to the top. You may not have the strength to get to the top right now, but you will accumulate that strength as you continue on the journey.

Today, I happen to be married to the hottest girl on the planet! I didn’t think it could happen for me. However, I now find myself getting frustrated with my “parenting inabilities.” If frustration has produced anything positive in my life it has humbled me and made me place my trust in Jesus all the more.

I asked friends on Facebook what they did when they’re frustrated and these were some of the responses:

  • Get in my car and drive with loud music playing
  • Talk to someone I can trust
  • Organize and deep clean
  • Punching bag
  • Pray 

 

- Pastor Jonathan Martinez