Judging Outsiders

"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church
whom you are to judge? God judges those outside." - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13a

In my experience, having conversations with people from outside the church, I have noticed that most of them consider Christians very judgmental. They would say that we are self-righteous and lack compassion.

A few months ago, I was invited to do a memorial for one of my wife’s cousins. To be honest, when I received the invitation I was a little hesitant to participate and associate with some people I assumed would attend. For a couple of days, I thought and prayed through the whole situation. I was uncertain about doing the memorial because my wife’s cousin was openly gay and in a relationship with another man. After seeking discernment from the Lord, I felt a strong conviction to say yes, not only to support my wife’s family but to take it as an opportunity to share about Jesus.

As I reflected on my hesitation to say yes right away, I realized that I was questioning if it was worthwhile to minister at this memorial because of the sexual sin that the deceased practiced. In a way, I was judging my wife’s cousin and his partner for behaving in an unbiblical way, and I was tempted to act self-righteously; my thought process wasn’t very compassionate.

This week as I was studying 1 Corinthians 5, God reminded me of this event and in a way, He allowed me to share a brief testimony on how easy it is to be judgmental towards those who are not walking with the Lord. My guess is that I’m not the only one. I’m sure that my initial response to this situation is not uncommon. As followers of Jesus, we are constantly being tempted to act judgmental towards unbelievers for acting like unbelievers. But, according to the apostle Paul, judging outsiders is not our responsibility but God’s. Our responsibility is to get to know them, love them, serve them, and look for opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

On the day of the memorial, about a hundred people showed up to this celebration of life. As expected, when I arrived at the small chapel the room was divided almost evenly into two different groups of people. On the right side of the room was my wife’s family and on the other side multiple gay couples who were friends of my wife’s cousin and his partner.

When the time came for me to share a message from God’s Word, the tension in the room was obvious. It felt to me as if half of the audience was very nervous as if they were expecting a judgmental sermon from the Bible. But as I began to share about “The God of All Comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3-4), everyone relaxed and became attentive. When I concluded I very respectfully and openly shared with this very interesting audience about the hope Jesus Christ offers to those who are willing to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

As the celebration of life ended, I had a chance to meet most of my wife's cousin’s friends. To my surprise, most of them mentioned how much they appreciated my words. When I had a chance to give my condolences to his partner, he hugged me and gave me thanks. Then, he gave me a present that I keep on my desk. I guess you get nice presents when you are not judgmental!

What I have learned is that instead of being judgmental towards those that don’t believe in Christ, I need to be more passionate about promoting purity within the church. Our responsibility is not to judge outsiders but to give them a taste of the Kingdom of God. My hope and prayer is that we may be the salt of the earth to those outside the church (Matt. 5:13). God bless!

Pastor Esteban Tapia
En Español Ministry


New Lump

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. - I Corinthians 5:7

What’s happening in this verse? Why does Paul all of a sudden bring up a baking metaphor? And what’s so special about unleavened bread? In fact, what really is the difference between leavened and unleavened bread? Yes, I had to ask that question, because I know next to nothing about the baking end of the bread industry… my only real experience is in the consumption side of things. What I learned on the interwebs is that leavened bread is the delicious fluffy stuff and unleavened bread is the flat, often tasteless stuff. So, why are we the unleavened bread in this metaphor?

I don’t think that he wants Christians to be less appealing to the world. This is not a call to be boring, tasteless, and dry. I think there is something else going on and I think it has something to do with what makes leavened bread leaven… yeast. Most of the bread that we eat these days has yeast in it. But yeast is actually a single-celled organism that spreads throughout a lump of the dough causing the whole thing to rise. So, quite literally, yeast introduces a living organism into the mix, making the bread change. And not all of the change is good. One of the problems with leavened bread is that it doesn’t last very long. Once yeast gets added to the dough, it has to be cooked within 2 days, and then it can only last 4-5 days after being cooked. After that, it has to be thrown away. However, I found out that certain forms of unleavened Matzo bread can last for 5-10 years when properly stored!!

So, maybe this metaphor makes more sense now. Sin is like an organism that works through a community. Sure, sin might be a little exciting, it might be fluffy and bring some new flavors and tastes, but it will quickly kill a community. However, a community that quickly gets rid of the sin organism can become a source of healthy nourishment for years and years to come! This is who we are called to be! The yeast has been taken out of our lives because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, so let’s be quick to deal with sin whenever we see it. Let’s work hard to make sure that it doesn’t influence the whole lump. Let’s be a new lump!

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor


Tough Love

From 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

I was contemplating Paul’s tough love when a youth pastor friend of mine posted this photo:

I like the message of the photo. I want to be a part of a church that emphasizes the gospel and not religion. When I contemplated the words in the photo compared to Paul’s message, at first it seemed that Paul’s edict was more like Religion than Gospel. Then it struck me, there is a reason the two scenarios are very different. The person Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 5 never says, “I messed up.” That person pretends that his sin is not sin. He pretends that he isn’t hurting his family or the church family.

God cares about us enough to discipline us. He cares about the church and doesn’t want the church to let sin spread through compromises and approval of sin.

It is helpful to understand what love is and the different ways love approaches life and helps people. Love doesn’t let children put knives into electrical outlets or puppies play in the street. Love protects and love is honest, not overlooking the dangers of sin.

Spend some time considering how this works in your life. Are you living like Paul, who calls “believers” out for sin and addresses it honestly in order to save the church and that person from continuing to live harmful lies? What would it take to love people like Paul does and call sin - sin?

Pastor John Riley
Junior High Pastor


It’s Not a Big Deal

“It’s not a big deal.” I’m sure you have heard that statement before. Most of the time I probably use that phrase correctly, but sometimes I use it to downplay something that is a big deal. Such as being arrested in Mexico, my various illnesses growing up, and once in a while when I’ve made a mistake. Saying “It’s not a big deal,” might make me feel better in the moment. On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes it’s fun to revel in past life experiences or even brag about things that are good and the things that were bad. My guess is based on 1 Corinthians 5 both were happening in the church.

Nobody is perfect and sometimes our imperfections bring sin into the church. In Corinth the people were proud of either their sin or getting away with it, even boasting about it (v. 2; 6). Maybe they didn’t think it was a big deal because the world around them did the same kind of things. Maybe they thought it was okay to justify their sin. My guess, was they knew the sexual sin that was happening was a big deal and there was some pride in getting away with it. Of course, Paul had to encourage and correct. They needed to recognize the evilness that sin was brought into the community and make a hard change. They needed to mourn and grieve the fact that they let sin take root in the church. Paul was right in his instruction, this was a big deal and it needed to be treated like it was.

Sin is a problem but praise God for sending his Son so we can be forgiven, live, and be transformed from sin. Maybe you are stuck though. Maybe sin has its grips and you’ve been saying it’s not a big deal. It might be time to confess and mourn the sin that has been grabbing you (1 John 1:9). Maybe someone around you is boasting about their sin and you are unsure what to do. First, pray for wisdom, turn to God and let him help.  Remember to speak the truth in love so we can all grow into maturity (Eph. 4:15). As always if we can help let us know, we are here with you!

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor


Seriousness of Sin

I’m getting to that age where growing up in the warm California sun is finally catching up with me. It’s time for me to go to a dermatologist to get my face scanned to see if I have any skin cancer beginning to form. My dad did it a few years ago, and now it’s my turn. How silly would it be for me to say, “It’s not that big of a deal. Those cancer spots are pretty small.” No way! Cancer is cancer and whether it’s big or small it has the ability to kill. I think we should view sin in the same way - big or small, it has the ability to steal, kill, and destroy.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he said, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1) The church was justifying sin, assuming that it wasn’t all that big of a deal. However, they were sorely mistaken. They were snuggling up to something that had the ability to destroy them. When sin is tolerated, life is damaged.

Why would someone downplay the seriousness of sin? I think there are a few reasons. First, they don’t understand the way that sin has the ability to rob us of life. Listen to a few of the adverse effects of sin that are listed in the Scriptures. Sin:

  • Robs us of the joy of salvation. (Psalm 51)

  • Robs us of peace (Philippians 4:7)

  • Causes anguish in our physical body (Psalm 32:3-4)

  • Hinders fellowship with God (1 John 1:3, 6)

  • Causes separation and isolation from others (1 John 1:6)

  • Causes ineffectiveness in prayer (Psalm 66:18)

  • Causes us to become fearful (John 2:28)

  • Gives the Devil a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:27)

When we stop to think about it, sin’s effects should grieve us.

The second reason we don’t take sin seriously is that we don’t believe we can actually change. We’re not wholly convinced that we can make true change; and yet, we’re told the Spirit lives in us. You are a new creation and Jesus has given you everything you need for life and godliness; you just need to trust him and move forward by his grace.

Finally, many of us ignore sin because we don’t know how much life is waiting for us through obedience to Jesus. Read back through the list above and you’ll, but reverse each of the effects of sin to see what we have through obedience. Joy, peace, and the list goes on. It’s all available to you through Jesus.

If we start to realize what hangs in the balance, we might take sin more seriously. Now, just to be clear, we are seriously forgiven, but we must walk in obedience if we are going to experience all that the Lord has for us … and that starts with getting serious about our sin.  Take a moment today to confess your sins to the Lord. Ask him to forgive you. Remind yourself that he has and does. And then intention in your heart to live in obedience.

Pastor Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor


Don’t Fight It

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 1 Corinthians 14:20-21

Have you ever heard of a Chinese finger trap? You may know it by another name, but it is a simple woven tube that tightens around whatever is stuck into each end when pulled apart. It is a gag toy that carries vivid memories for me. When I was a little girl, my sisters and I frequently stayed with our grandparents. I was particularly close to my aunt, several years older than me. She had a great sense of humor, and we loved to laugh together. On one visit, I remember standing in the backyard when she told me to give her toy a try by sticking my index fingers in each end. You guessed it. I was the young and gullible child who played along. The laughter began when I told her I didn’t get it and tried to take my fingers out. Her laughter. Not mine. The harder I pulled, the tighter it got, and my panic grew! After she’d enjoyed my predicament for a bit, she showed me how to get free by just relaxing and bringing my fingers together to loosen the tube. 

That childhood memory is just what came to mind when I thought of Paul’s questions in verse 21, “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” If only I had known that my freedom from the finger trap depended on my cooperating with its design. Instead, I fought against it. The longer I pulled and strained, the greater my discomfort and distress. 

Often in my life, I have fallen into the trap of trying to manage the temptations and challenges of life on my own. If I am honest, I have too often wanted to design my own growth plan. Instead of cooperating with the Spirit’s work in my life, I have resisted, revealing my need to trust him more. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:29-30 NLT) Rather than fighting against the perfectly fitting “yoke” that God has designed for us, let’s ask the Lord to teach us his ways and to give us the grace to walk in them. 

Nicole Jiles
Director of Children’s Ministry


Power

You might have been woken in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago by an amazing light and sound show in Escondido. A storm cell moved through the area which created a powerful thunderstorm. I apparently slept through it! Everyone else in my house woke up and was amazed at what they experienced. It was a brief glimpse of God’s power, beauty, and majesty and at the same time, instances like that cause a little fear and trepidation. Realistically I never want to miss out on seeing God’s power, of course, you have to be watchful and ready. Sometimes it wakes us up and sometimes we have to be disciplined to be ready.

Sometimes when we talk about God there is metaphorical lightning and thunder and sometimes we miss the power. Paul did not want believers' words or lives to miss the power of God. In verse 20 Paul talks about how the power of the Gospel, the power of transformation, and the power of God should be displayed through our lives. Of course, that takes discipline. Being dedicated to living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus allows our lives to reveal the power God gives. Others see a difference, not just in words, but indeed as well. That transformational power God displays through the believers' life of obedience and discipline is amazing and a testimony to how he can change everything. That is a power we don’t want to miss.

Let’s not miss the power of God in the life of his church. Together, let’s gather around what God is doing so we can share in his power. I would like to encourage you to spend some time with the Lord and ask him where you might need to take some steps of obedience with him, where you might need a little more discipline in your walk. Also take some time to praise him for where you see his power, where you see change, and where you see the strength in your walk. We have plenty of ways to help you with groups, classes, and mentors, just reach out and we will help you take the right step.

Pastor Jeremy
Family Pastor


Imitators

It definitely stung.  It got me right in the gut and the heart.  At first glance, it was a sweet sight and I actually smiled and began to feel a sense of pride and joy.  I thought to myself, “yes, this is exactly what I want to be modeling.”  But that sight quickly turned sour when I noticed one little item and it felt like a stab wound in my heart. I was trying to be so intentional with the example I was setting as a mom and I was clueless about this important detail I had missed.

My little girl was walking down the hallway having reimagined our house into her own little community.  She was pushing a stroller full of babies, carrying a baby, looking cute, and was headed to a prayer meeting.  How cute, right?  Then I see it… I see a little play cell phone squeezed between her ear and shoulder.  What?  How was the cell phone part of this picture?  Was this what she saw of me in her tender little moldable heart?  A busy mom who was distracted on her phone? Wounded and convicted I went to work to reshape the image I was unintentionally showing.  I quickly went in my mind to the women in my life and what things stood out to me when I saw them running about town or heading into a church meeting.  A cell phone wasn’t part of the picture I saw!

God sent us the best example to model in Jesus.  So many of the stories in the bible center around Jesus simply “living” and sharing life with others.  Attending a conference or retreat or event is great where we get a firehose dose of truth and inspiration.  But it’s possible the impact of living life shoulder to shoulder is where true “living for Christ'' is best learned.  And in God's great wisdom He has given us those who have gone before us to help set the example and model.  From grandparents to older friends God has given me, my life has been shaped greatly by the role they played.

At the same time, there are younger eyes watching us, so we are being called to model and lead by example as well.  As we learn from those ahead of us we are responsible to model for those coming up behind us.  Titus 2:7

It’s in the moments of conviction like with my daughter, or when we are in a season of not knowing, that we can look ahead and see who God has given us to seek counsel from and learn.  We can be watchful, always learning and applying so that those watching us are getting a model of godliness.

Do you know who are you watching and why?  Are you aware of who is watching you and what example you are setting?  Who we are watching will directly impact who we are and the example we are living out, and as a direct result will impact who is watching us.

Bonnie Nichols
Women’s Ministry Specialist


An Appropriate Warning

"I am writing this… to warn you as my dear children.” - 1 Corinthians 4:14

At 7 years old, my Josiah was a confident little bike rider … maybe too confident. It was a cool Saturday afternoon, so we decided to take a short trip to the church parking lot… Beth and I would walk, while the kids rode their bikes. One of the great things about living close to the church is that we get to enjoy this big empty lot when no one else is there. All my kids learned how to ride a bike in the lower lot. They have ridden there and back countless times, thankfully without incident, that is except for this one very close call.

On this particular day, as we started to head for home, I decided to let my boys ride ahead of us, much to my wife’s chagrin. Beth and I watched from a distance as our oldest rode down the hill at full speed making a quick turn into our driveway. Not to be outdone by his older brother, Josiah decided to try the same thing. We were watching his little legs pumping down the hill in front of us when we realized that a car was coming up behind him going far too fast near children on bikes. Josiah, not thinking about anything other than making a smooth, fast turn into our driveway, decided to make a last-minute maneuver to finish off his ride. He rounded out his turn by swerving left before turning right into the driveway, putting himself directly into the flow of traffic only a second before the car sped past him! Our hearts leaped. From our perspective, it looked like we were going to lose our little guy. We screamed in fear, mixed with relief, mixed with anger, and began running to the house getting angrier as we ran. By the time we got to the house and saw the boys’ look of confusion as if nothing had happened, we decided that they needed to know how scary their actions were. We wanted to put the fear of the Lord into them at that point. We wanted them to be as scared as we were, and we succeeded. Both boys were in tears by the time we cooled off and we started feeling like we may have overreacted.

But, did we overreact? As I think back on this situation, I actually don’t think we did. I’m glad that we got mad. I’m glad that they have a memory of their crazy parents running down the street yelling at them. I’m glad that they still remember how scared we were. I hope they never forget because I want my kids to have a healthy fear of things that they should have a healthy fear of. I don’t want them to make silly decisions that might ruin their lives. This little story makes me understand Paul’s warnings a bit more. He realizes that the people he loves are in trouble of making silly mistakes that could ruin the life that God has for them. He realizes that they need a strong warning, the way kids do from time to time.

I think that this might be a good way to look at all of God’s warnings through scripture. God doesn’t give us warnings just because he likes the rules and he wants people to listen to him. God gives us warnings because we are in danger of swerving into traffic. Maybe it’s time to listen as if our life depends on it.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor


Spiritual Father

Do you have a spiritual mother or father? Someone who introduced you to the gospel? If so, that person might feel they have more liberty or authority to challenge and direct you. That was Paul’s claim at the end of 1 Corinthians 4. He wrote (verse 15) that the believers there might end up with ten thousand guardians, or guides, in Christ, but they would only have one father because “in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel.” In that role, Paul feels he has the authority or the responsibility to help the Corinthians know the truth and live it out. So, as their spiritual father, he asks them (verse 21) “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?”

Most of us would choose the love and gentleness option, but there are times when we need the rod of discipline too. Working in student ministry, I see the need for discipline regularly. Sometimes volunteer leaders are hesitant to correct or discipline students. Those leaders end up getting walked on by students who push to see how much they can get away with. These leaders end up frustrated by the student’s behavior, and the lack of discipline doesn’t help the students. Interestingly, leaders hesitate to discipline because they don’t want to hurt their relationship with the students, but the lack of discipline is exactly what hurts the relationship. When the leaders discipline their students it helps the relationship (well, it helps the relationship when the student can tell that the leader cares and is disciplining from love versus irritation - and students can always tell.)

Believers are encouraged to “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. for what children are not disciplined by their father?” - Hebrews 12:7. Discipline is a part of love. It is what real life and spiritual mothers and fathers do to care for and bring up their children. Please consider if you have given someone this position of influence in your life and if there are people you are being a spiritual mom or dad for.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor