Some Thoughts on Love

IMG_2042At the Angelus Temple last fall, Pastor Matthew made a remark that lodged in my brain.

“Turn off your tv, it’s prophesying doom over your life,” he said.

It’s true. Facebook does it too and here’s how you can tell: As you watch or read news feeds, consider the imaginary arguments you’re having with someone over something they said. Feel the churning in your gut, the shaking of your head and the pejoratives you attach to that person. Doom!

Here’s how it’s supposed to be:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

That’s why I pray and read The Bible every day now. It is one thing to dump the cold, nasty stuff out of yesterday’s cup, it’s another to scrub it clean and refill it with fresh Dunkin’ Donuts dark roast with vanilla cream and sugar. Thank God Lent is nearly over.

Sailing

(Photo credit: possumgirl2)

Often, goosebumps rise on my arms as I praise God for the sunrise and pray for people I love. Joy swells in my chest and blows away negative thought loops, sending me on a different heading. This is the present-tense value of following Jesus Christ – you learn to quit seeing things like the world does and begin seeing them like God does. Go ahead and try it, your life and circumstances can’t resist.

“Well, what about all the __________ I am doing? What about all the _______I have done? What about the scriptures on __________I disagree with? What about all the __________Christians on tv?”

For a moment, please set it aside and listen to the gospel: God is holy and we’re not, so we’re separate. Jesus was tortured and died to bridge that separation. It’s a gift.

So it doesn’t really matter what you are doing right now or what you think, if you bring it to Jesus and hand it over, he will teach what love really is and then drown you in it. Out of that love you become a new creature, utilizing the purest, most creative parts of yourself – often in service of other people.

I’m hardly breaking theological ground here, people have been saying this for centuries. But when you strip away the acrimony that’s built up around the gospel, and try it for yourself, it proves to be awfully good news.

How?

As the sun comes up, grab a cup of coffee and read the Gospel of John. It was written by a man who understood, perhaps better than the rest, how much Jesus loved him.

Then let Jesus love you like that.

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The Church Ought To Be Peculiar – Angelus Temple.

After hearing my stories about the LA Dream Center, people frequently say:

“That doesn’t sound like a normal church” or “how come I’ve never heard of this place?”

It isn’t a normal church and if you’d like further evidence of that, watch this 30 second video from Sunday’s service at Angelus Temple – the LA Dream Center’s church home. Mind you, this video was taken on a Sunday morning at 9am, not Friday night.

After what may have been the loudest, most fun worship service ever, Pastor Matthew spoke about Christians living in victory. That means even if your circumstances are terrible, you can live with joy because if you believe in Jesus Christ, everything he has, you have, ie: power, love, a strong mind, peace with God, a living hope, protection, confidence, and unfettered access to God.

“So walk in ridiculous faith,” Pastor Matthew said. “Don’t lose what God already gave you. Remind yourself of who you are in Christ.”

That’s how we live with joy in a messed up world.

Christian churches work hard to be relevant in order that the gospel might penetrate those who have abandoned traditional church. But Pastor Matthew doesn’t try to be relevant, he just is. After 18 years elbow-deep in the messy lives of the LA’s poor, homeless and addicted, victory in Christ is not theory. Pastor Matthew knows what he’s talking about, and when he speaks, people listen.

Dream Center service at Angelus Temple

So if you live in LA and want to check out the Angelus Temple, services are at 9 and 11 on Sundays and 7pm Thursday night at 1100 Glendale.

If you don’t live in LA, you can stream it on Sundays and Thursday nights. Remember that’s Pacific Time.

What To Do When Life Isn’t Working.

Last night, a Hispanic girl, maybe 17, wearing baggy jeans got up to speak at the Angelus Temple – the LA Dream Center’s church home.

She was trying not to cry and her hands shook as Pastor Tommy Barnett held her arm. It took her a try or two to get the words out and when she did, her voice broke. Immediately, the place erupted with people hollering encouragement and telling her they loved her and she could do it.

She told us the death of her father devastated her so badly she wound up on a crystal meth spiral and without the Dream Center she wouldn’t be here.

“God is so good,” she said and she walked off the stage.

On Wednesday night, I met with Bob Goff, author of Love Does (more on that later). This gracious and hilarious guy, spent 45 minutes with me, before stepping on stage to encourage the students at Pepperdine University to love people extravagantly.

Bob is dedicated to looking for proof that Jesus is alive, much like a detective dusts for fingerprints. He said, when you deliberately look for Jesus, you find him everywhere.

For many years, I didn’t bother to look for Jesus because I thought I didn’t need to. But when my life began to feel like eating a sleeve of saltine crackers, I decided to look. That’s why I picked up The Bible – even though, at the time, it felt foolish and naive.

Now I’m at the Dream Center, a place that sparkles with Jesus, because much of its leadership is composed of people who came through drugs, and jail and the system. But, just like that brave little sister who spoke last night, they were restored piece by piece by Jesus and the Dream Center’s one-year discipleship program.

The bible calls people like this “trophies of grace” because when you come to Jesus just like you are and he gets you cleaned up and then uses you to clean other people up, you’re a huge prize.

So if trusting Jesus feels silly and naive to you, like it did to me, make a point of looking for his fingerprints. Listen to people who would be dead without him and see if that makes you curious what he’s has planned for you.