Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

My Two Dads, 19 June 2016

My Two Dads
Father’s Day 2016
1 John 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:7-11

Big Idea:
God is the greatest Dad!

Happy Father’s Day! I realize like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can be emotional…….

This morning I’d like to read two letters. I’ve written one to my biological dad and the other to my heavenly Dad. I wish I could introduce you to my earthly dad, though hopefully you’ll get a glimpse of him through my letter. If you don’t know my heavenly Father, I can and will introduce you to Him!

Dear Dad,

It has been so long since I’ve spoken with you. I can’t remember the last time I heard you say my name. I miss you SO much.

It was horrible watching you fade away over the past decade or so, your mind ravaged by Alzheimer’s. I’m grateful you never got angry and loud but instead remained so calm. You seemed to be comfortable, even during your final days two years ago. I’m so glad I was with you on May 5, 2014 to watch you take your last breath, surrounded by mom, Heather, and other family members.

Thank you.
Thank you for loving me, for loving my sister, and for loving mom. Everyone who knew you knew you were a man of love. Jesus summarized the entire Law of the Bible in two commands: love God and love others. You were a great example of love.

Thank you for disciplining me. I know that sounds strange. I certainly didn’t like it when you made me write every verse in Proverbs which speaks about wisdom. I didn’t like being spanked! You disciplined out of love, though. The writer of Hebrews said

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

You disciplined because you loved me. I appreciate that now.

Thank you for music. I am grateful for my musical heritage. You not only had a love for black gospel music which I share to this day, you were a skilled musician and encouraged me to become one, too.

Thank you for loving Jesus. He was the most important person in your life and He’s the most important person in mine.

Thank you for discipling me. Actions speak louder than words. You provided me with both. You were not perfect, but you were a living example.

I saw Jesus in you as you cared for the least of these, repairing cars for single moms.

I saw Jesus in you as you were generous, giving to not only our church but other ministries, too. I’m not sure how much you gave, but I know it was far beyond the 10% tithe set as a minimum in the Old Testament.

I saw Jesus in you as you shared Christ with customers and co-workers, never pressuring people but rather inviting them to a personal relationship with their Creator.

I saw Jesus in you as you used your gift of leadership as the head of the elder board. Your wisdom was deeply needed many times and without you and mom that church would’ve closed decades ago.

On a side note, do you remember when I asked your forgiveness for judging you? I told you I once thought if you were a REAL Christian you’d become a pastor but I came to realize it would be as wrong for you to leave the marketplace and become a pastor as it would for me to leave vocational ministry for a marketplace career. You impacted so many lives no pastor would’ve ever been able to reach.

There’s so much more I could write, so many great memories of vacations, ball games, Boy Scouts, car repair, …and your amazing laugh! I love you, Dad. I want to be like You and I can’t wait to see you!

Your son,



Dear heavenly Dad,

Thank you.
Thank you for blessing me with such an incredible earthly dad. He remains my small-h hero. I miss him so much…and look forward to a reunion someday in heaven. He was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received and I hope to be half the man he was to my wife, kids, and friends.

Thank You for loving me. Everyone who knows You knows You are a loving Dad. In fact, You are the definition of love! John wrote

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

I know we often misunderstand love. We confuse it with being nice. Love is not tolerant. In fact, they’re often polar opposites. You don’t tolerate us. You’re not passive. Your nature is to give, to have our best interest at heart, and to do whatever necessary to ensure not necessarily our happiness but our holiness.

Thank you for loving my sisters and brothers here in this room and beyond. Eight months ago you brought our family to Toledo to join this First Alliance family and we are so grateful! We have been encouraged, challenged, and loved-on by great men, women, and children, too. It all began with You and Your love.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

There’s so much in those three short verses. You have “lavished” Your love on us…on all of us. We are Your children which means not only a relationship with You but also with one another.

Thank You for hope. John continues

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

This world is so broken. It is groaning and grieving. Violence, heroin, injustice, corruption, hunger, hatred, and pride are just a few of the many sins ravaged our planet. They don’t reflect Your glory, purity, love, or peace. We are to be a faithful presence here and now, but we also live with the hope that Christ will appear, we will be like him, and we will see him…which reminds of my greatest thanks.

Thank You for Jesus! I can’t imagine how people could possibly live without Jesus. You proved Your love to us by sending Jesus (John 3:16).

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

Oh how I love Jesus! He was the wisest person to ever walk the earth. He was the greatest teacher. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He modeled for us what it means to be truly human. No other life has been more analyzed or emulated. Yet his life was only part of the story.

His death was horrific and scandalous, yet so glorious.
The cross is a symbol of love, of our sins being atoned for, paid for, and ultimately forgiven. You sent your only son on a mission to die…and there’s not greater pain than watching your child die. We’ve seen movies of the crucifixion and imagine the agony of Jesus, but You, Dad, experienced horrific anguish, too. Your one son received the penalty of the sins of your adopted children. No dad has given a greater gift than the gift of Jesus You have given to us. Without the broken body and the poured-out blood of Jesus I would have no hope, no forgiveness, no joy, no peace, and no love. Because of the cross every man, woman and child has the opportunity to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord and experience abundant life with purpose.

Thank You for disciplining me. The writer of Hebrews was so right!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

You disciplined because you loved me. I appreciate that now. I have grown through trials. My character has been shaped through testing. I know You’re not done with me yet (which scares me sometimes!) but I can see how You’ve always disciplined out of love, not hate or anger. You want what’s best for me, and sometimes what’s best isn’t a banana split on the beach (though I’d enjoy that!).

On a side note, I’m so sorry judging you. There have been so many times when I wanted You to do what I wanted rather than truly seeking Your will. The older I get, the more I realize Daddy knows best, but sometimes it’s hard to trust, especially when I have to wait. I know You are good, though…all the time! Hindsight is 20/20 and now I see the reasons for many of the trials.

Thank You for music. I love music. I love using music to worship and praise You, though worship is so much more than just singing songs. I want all of my life to bring You honor and glory because You’re worth it. You deserve all worship.

Thank You for Your Word.

The vast majority of people throughout history have not had 24/7 access to the scriptures. I’m so blessed to have a copy of the Bible…several, really! I love reading and listening to it on my iPhone. I love studying it. There’s so much to learn and explore about You…and me, too! I’m grateful for the Bible not only for knowledge but also wisdom and understanding…and to know You!

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:103-105)

There’s so much more I could write, so many great memories of answered prayers, perfect timing, unexpected blessings, and unending faithfulness. I love you, Dad. I want to be like You and I can’t wait to see you!

Your son,


  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Learn to Love, 12 June 2016

Learn to Love
Graduation Sunday
Proverbs 1:1-7

Big Idea:
We need to learn…to be wise and loving.

Dear graduates,

Congratulations! I have some important things to say to all of you…and everyone else in attendance today. Today is not the end of your education. Hopefully. I hope you will all be life-long learners. God has created an incredible universe for us to explore. When you stop learning, you stop living. I urge you to be curious. Ask questions. Read books. Listen to podcasts.

You no doubt have obtained great knowledge in your studies, but the real value of knowledge is in its application:

In the words of the great theologian (!) Jimi Hendrix, "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."

The greatest source of wisdom is, of course, Almighty God. He created this world and knows it better than anyone. 1 Kings 3 records God speaking in a rather unique way, a passage we coincidentally read this week during in the One Story Bible reading plan:

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:5-14)

In the next chapter, it says

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:29-34)

When Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs, he was considered the wisest man on the planet. Here’s how he began

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;

for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—

let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—

for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:1-7)

Graduates, as you continue on in life, you will learn from many sources. As children, we learn from parents and family. The next verses in Proverbs talk about the value of the instructions of parents (Proverbs 1:8-9).

As we get older,
we learn from our friends (Proverbs 1:10-19). You are your friends. Choose wisely.

We also learn from our culture. Screens are everywhere, bombarding us with narcissistic messages that say it’s all about us. The pursuit of happiness has become the American way, yet it’s not God’s highest desire for us. He wants us to pursue holiness more than happiness. Be careful what you let into your mind. Virtually all commercials are designed to make us discontent. Amusement literally means to not use your brain, a-muse. Social media tempts us to compare our normal lives with the highlight reels of others. Be discerning when you absorb television, computer, tablet, and phone screens.

We learn from others: peers and mentors. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and to make disciples of Jesus (Philippians 4:9).

We are to learn from God’s Word. The psalmist wrote

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11)

God’s Word, the Bible, has been read and followed for thousands of years. It is the most studied, published, and subversive book in human history. By far! It’s not politically correct. People have given their lives for possessing it, distributing it, and even translating it. It’s powerful. It’s true. It’s raw. It’s honest. It’s real.

The Bible is the entre, not the spice. You need more than a dash of it. Spend quality time each day reading it, memorizing it, studying it.

We are to learn from God. The best thing about the Bible is it’s our best way to know our Father. It’s a letter from God for us. He also speaks, though, through the Holy Spirit, circumstances, dreams, impressions, and other people. He will never contradict His Word, so it’s important to discern anything we believe God is saying.

Solomon said

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

For years I have been gathering with others asking two simple questions;

- What is God saying? We listen, read, discuss, and discern.
- What will I do about it? Belief requires action. It can’t stay in our head.

Graduates, I urge you to continue to learn—from godly sources. We naturally absorb the world’s messages…and so many are outright lies. Even scientific research is sometimes overturned, though I appreciate contributions science has made to our lives.

Learn. Learn from godly people. Learn from God’s Word. Learn from God.

Education is gift. It is a tool. It is not the goal. The ultimate goal is to apply your knowledge…wisdom.

Finally, learn to love.

Learn to love God. He loves you. Jesus died for you, the ultimate expression of love. We love because He first loved us.

Learn to love others. God loves them. Find ways to serve. Look out for their best interest. Some can be challenging. You and I can often be challenging. We are, however, to love unconditionally. That’s God’s agape love. Paul described it this way:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

Learn to love.

It has been said when you stop learning, you stop living.

But seek wisdom, not merely knowledge. Most of all seek God. He's the ultimate source of wisdom...and life...and love.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Develop a Rule of Life, 5 June 2016

Go the Next Step to Develop a “Rule of Life”
Series: Go Deeper—Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
Acts 2:42-47

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The seventh pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to develop a “Rule of Life.”


We conclude our series Go Deeper. We’ve said like an iceberg, many of us have so much hidden that others don’t really know us. Sometimes we don’t really know ourselves, or at least we hide our past, guilt, shame, addictions, and struggles…but they can never be hidden from God.

The problem with hiding is you can only hide for so long. Like a beach ball at the bottom of a swimming pool, the more we bury, the greater the burst when you can no longer stuff the embarrassment or pain.

Perhaps another way to say Go Deeper is to Get Real! Of course that’s easier said than done, yet many churchgoers are the worst when it comes to living in denial, wearing masks, and overspiritualizing the challenges of life.

As a review, we’ve looked at

The 7 Pathways

1. Know Yourself that You May Know God (David & Goliath)
2. Going Back in Order to Go Forward (Joseph)
3. Journey Through the Wall (Abraham)
4. Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief and Loss (Jesus)
5. Discover the Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath (Daniel)
6. Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult (Good Samaritan)

Today I want to share with you some tools for living a radical, passionate life in the footsteps of Jesus and

7. Take the Next Step to Develop a “Rule of Life.”

We live in a narcissistic world. Have you noticed? The message of the culture is, “It’s all about you!” Consumerism is so prevalent that we often “go to church” in order to receive, yet we call it a worship service. We use prayer to get God to serve us. We expect God to be a cosmic genie, doing whatever we want…and we get upset when He doesn’t. I’ve got some disturbing news for you: it’s not all about you! In fact, it’s all about God.

I’ve got some exciting news for you: you and I have been invited to participate in God’s mission on our planet, in our city. It’s not that God’s Church has a mission, it’s that God’s mission has a Church. That’s us! We’re called to follow Jesus. We’re called to radically obey the sacred scriptures.

For too long the church has focused on orthodoxy—right thinking. I’m all about good theology. I leave tonight for my final doctorate class at Northern Seminary before working on my dissertation. I love the Bible and theology, but there’s something even more important than orthodoxy: orthopraxy. I know, that’s a fancy word. It simply means right practice, right behavior.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

People don’t care what you believe until they know how you you live your life.

But how? How do we look and act like Jesus instead of the sitcom characters? How do we remain pure in a polluted society? How do we love when we’re surrounded by hate?

Three weeks ago we talked about spiritual disciplines or habits. Like brushing your teeth or jogging, the goal is not the disciplines themselves. That’s legalism. The goal is to develop your relationship with God in order to…love God and love others, our subject last week. Focusing on God throughout the day—the Daily Office—is one helpful discipline. Whether it’s at morning and night, three times a day, five times a day, or more, spend focused time with God. It can be brief. It may be a short prayer, meditating on a Bible verse, or singing a song. It could be journaling—writing out your prayers. It might involve appreciating God’s creation, being still and asking God to speak, or doing an act of kindness in the name of Jesus. There are many ways throughout our day we can “pray without ceasing” and avoid the temptation of becoming Christian atheists, Christians who truly live as if God isn’t with us.

We also talked about Sabbath, a daily 24-hour period of rest and renewal. It can be Sunday, Saturday, or any day, but scheduling time to be unproductive in the eyes of the world and center yourself on God, His Word, and appreciating His world.

The third anchor that can help us focus our lives on God is called a Rule of Life.


- from the Greek word

- a tool to help you grow upward and outward

- a framework or structure to help enable us continually pay attention to God and keep Him the center of our lives

Throughout history, people gathered together in communities around a rule of life. Some were as large as 5000 people in the Egyptian desert.

At this moment, around the world, people are gathering in churches. Why? There are a variety of answers to that question, but hopefully they—and you—are seeking to know and become like Jesus.

As we noted last week, maturity and growth don’t just happen. In fact, I’m told the only thing that will naturally grow as I age is my nose and ears (and probably my gut!).

Going deeper is not about simply filling your head with more information. Throughout history there have been religious leaders who could ace any Bible knowledge test…but they didn’t look like Jesus. In fact, some of them killed Jesus!

What is your plan for spiritual growth?

Many of you have plans for physical growth. You count calories. You work out in the gym. You run marathons. Whether it began as a new year’s resolution or through some other event you have a goal…and you’re working toward it.

Next Sunday we will honor those whose plans for mental and academic growth have been fulfilled…or at least reached a milestone we call graduation. They had a plan to take classes, write papers, complete exams…and their mission has been accomplished.

Perhaps you have plans related to your work. Sales goals, bonuses, or standards of excellence. These typically have a plan with action steps.

What is your plan for spiritual growth?

Acts 2:42-47 shows us the trellis or framework for the early church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

“Devoted” to

1. Apostle’s Teaching

We’re a school of the LORD’s service. We are under the Scriptures.

2. Fellowship (Greek: “sharing”)

A new family/community is formed. Following Jesus is not an individual experience.

3. Breaking of Bread

They did it corporately and at home.

4. Prayer

a. Talking to God
b. Listening to God
c. Being with God


The early church was intentional. It was difficult. It required sacrifice. Many became martyrs. Their entire lives were God. They were breaking away from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Just as the one thing that occurs naturally in nature is weeds, the one thing that occurs naturally within us is sin.

This is about resetting your entire life. David wrote:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

I’d like to show you a a sample Rule of Life:

a. Scripture (through the Bible in a year; memorization)
b. Silence and Solitude

c. Daily Office (Psalms, personal prayer, writing out your prayers)
d. Study (reading, learning, exploring)

e. Sabbath
f. Simplicity
g. Play and Recreation (fun!)

h. Service and Mission
i. Care for the Physical Body

j. Emotional Health
k. Family
l. Community (Companions for your journey)

Here are some other ideas:

  • - Be a lover of God, seeking to live in the love of Christ above all else.
  • - Befriend silence.
  • - Allow Holy Scripture to shape and form Christ in me.
  • - Value my own dignity as a human being made in God's image through self-respect and self-care.
  • - Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.
  • - Remember God’s history of faithfulness with each new challenge.
  • - Receive God’s limits as a gift.
  • - Love my neighbor as I love myself— embracing my singleness as I bond with others,
or in marriage, giving first priority to my spouse and children.
  • - Walk in community while respecting each person’s uniqueness.
    • - Apply emotionally healthy practices in order to love well.
    • - Listen more than I speak.
    • - Live in truth, asking the hard questions.
    • - Bridge racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers for Christ.
      • - Point others to a deep, personal relationship with Jesus.
      • - Savor the sacred in all I do—at work, rest or play.
      • - Remember the poor and marginalized.
      • - Share my gifts, talents and resources, in and beyond our community.

What is your next step? It may be something on this list. It may be something else.

It must be a heart thing, not a to-do list. The goal is not to check things off. The goal is to take intentional steps to know and become like Jesus. None of us is perfect, but we can help encourage one another to become more like Jesus. We can be disciples and make disciples. That’s our mandate.

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else.” -Benedict

Luke 18:9-14 is a very sobering passage for me, especially as a “religious leader.”

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (Luke 18:9-12)

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Are you growing in your love for your enemies?

The goal of a rule of life is a heart transformation, not self-righteous behavior. It’s a journey, not a destination.

What is your trellis? What is your plan to follow Jesus?
What are your next steps?

Credits and Stuff

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Series outline and ideas from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

Other study questions from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult, 29 May 2016

Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult
Series: Go Deeper
Luke 10:25-37

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea

The sixth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to grow into an emotionally mature adult…to love.


We’re nearing the end of our series Go Deeper. The purpose of the series is to get real—with God, others, and ourselves—in order to better love God and others. Many live in denial about their past, their struggles, their sins, and their pain.

“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero.

Two weeks ago we talked about the rhythms of the Daily Office and a weekly Sabbath. If you’ve been experimenting with praying throughout the day and/or a designated day of rest, I’d love to hear about it. If not, I challenge you to pursue God in fresh ways and prioritize one, “unproductive” day of the week to rest, recharge, and renew.

Today’s topic is growing into an emotionally mature adult. Many people confuse age with maturity. Just as the phrase “older and wiser” is not always true, so also “older and mature” is not necessarily reality. No matter how old you are, there is room for growth and maturity. Our ultimate goal is to look like Jesus.

Many people overestimate their maturity. Specifically, they believe because they’ve attended a lot of church services and Bible studies they’re mature. Most people I know are educated beyond their level of obedience—including me!

Maturity requires more than great faith, sacrificing your body, giving everything you have to the poor, having great knowledge, and speaking multiple languages (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

In the Church, many mistakenly believe that if they have spent decades attending a church gathering on Sundays, they will automatically become spiritual giants. Not long ago a local pastor mentioned how he is so frustrated by several senior citizens in his congregation that think they’re mature, yet they are mean-spirited, selfish, grumpy, and lack joy and the most important of all love.


Few words are more misunderstood in our culture than love. Love is a feeling. I love ice cream and roller coasters. People say they fall into love and fall out of love.

Years ago I saw a group from the UK called The Waterboys. They have a song in which they declare love “lives in the girl in the swing.” Deep!

I remember a man telling me he had fallen in love with a woman, or so he thought. He wrestled with this question of defining love. He wisely turned to the Bible and discovered the answer in the book of 1 John.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1John 4:16)

God is love. Love is God. He is the definition of love!

Many of you know John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

1 John 3:16 is similar.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

The original Greek in the Bible uses three different words to describe three different types of love.

  • - eros (ἔρως), passionate
  • - philia (φιλία), friendship
  • - agape (ἀγάπη), unconditional

One of the most famous of Jesus’ stories is often called The Good Samarian.

The Good Samaritan—Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:25-26)

Jesus loved to answer questions with questions!

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

These two commands were known by every Jew, found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

Love God. Love your neighbor. So simple. That’s it. That’s why we’re here. That’s what First Alliance is all about…just two things: love God, love your neighbor. Simple. But so challenging…especially if your neighbor is…uh, unlovable!

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

This man thought he was mature. He thought because he was an expert in the law he’d pass any morality exam with flying colors. He should’ve just walked away, but instead he tried to “justify himself.”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is about 17 miles long with a descent of about 3000 feet. It was a dangerous road, frequently filled with robbers who hid along the steep, winding path.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32)

These two respected, religious, supposedly loving men ignore the victim of violence. Most likely the victim, priest, and Levite were all Jews. They studied what is known as the Torah, the first part of our Bible. It would make sense to help a brother in the faith, yet the two men were too busy or proud to be inconvenienced.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)

It’s nearly impossible for us to understand the hatred of Samarians by the Jews. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jew and Gentile. The Jewish Talmud says that he who eats bread with a Samaritan is like the one who eats the flesh of pigs, something so offensive I can’t come up with a modern-day equivalent!

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:34-35)

The Levite was religious. He had probably memorized the first five books of the Bible! He had likely given sermons on loving others.

Notice that this hated Samaritan loves, yet his love has appropriate boundaries. He doesn’t completely abandon his plans, but he seeks help, delegates to the innkeeper, and resumes his scheduled activities. He is generous. He loves.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

The essence of true Christian spirituality is love. This is not the feeling of love. It’s the commitment to seek the best interest of another, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, the accent in their language, the clothes on their body, their age, religion, or gender.

But love cannot just be in our head. It has to be in our heart and hands. One of Jesus’ three best friends said

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)

John narrows his focus to brothers or sisters, but Jesus says to love one’s neighbor, which is essentially anyone and everyone.
Emotional Maturity

Emotional maturity could be defined as loving well. Are you a good lover?

Loving your neighbor may mean caring for their physical needs in a moment of crisis, but most often it has to do with our day-to-day relationships with those we encounter at home, work, school, or in the marketplace. Just as infants grow physically into adults, so also emotional infants can become children, adolescents, and adults. Look at these examples:

Adult as Emotional Infant

-- treats others as “objects to meet my needs”
-- acts like tyrant and wins through intimidation
-- unable to empathize with others

Adult as Emotional Child
-- acts out resentment through distance, pouting, whining, clinging, lying, withholding, appeasing, lying.
-- does not openly and honestly express needs

Adult as Emotional Adolescent
-- cannot give without feeling controlled or resentful
-- capacity for mutual concern is missing
-- defensive, threatened by criticism

Adult as Emotional Adult

-- Able to ask for what they need, want, prefer – clearly, directly, honestly, respectfully.
-- Desire for relationships to win. Seeks win-win situations.
-- Able to listen with empathy.
-- Willing to risk saying what is needed without attacking.
-- Respects others without having to change them.
-- Able to resolve conflicts maturely and negotiate solutions.
-- Gives themselves and others room to make mistakes and not be perfect.

The problem is that we live with us in the center of our universe. The Good News is that we don’t have to stay there.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This is one of my favorite verses. Christ has the power to change and transform us. His sacrifice on the cross made it possible for us to reconnect with our Father, despite our sin.

Salvation does not mean we are instantly mature, however. Just as a Christian alcoholic must take steps to address their addiction and a Christian who never finished high school might want to work hard to get their GED, so also our emotions may need some deliberate, focused attention. Sure God could just miraculously heal the brokenness from your past, but more than likely He will work through your efforts at wholeness—not salvation, but wholeness.

This is one of the greatest challenges within the Church—denying our history and thinking that this verse means we’re instantly cured of every dysfunction in our lives when we encounter Jesus. We grow into maturity, it doesn’t just happen.

So What?

Take practical steps of discipleship to grow into an emotionally mature adult

It can be terrifying. Some of us do not even know how to feel. Where do we start?

We must follow the path of Abraham, leaving our pasts and families and cultures (the bad stuff) and turning to God. This is obviously impossible apart from God.

We must repent (turn away) from our past and then move forward.

If you want to run a marathon, you must train and build up to it over time. Becoming an emotionally healthy adult requires baby steps.

Discipleship is a lifelong journey. It is hard. It takes time. It is worth it!

The alternative is living your life as a prisoner of your past.

We should love the best because we are loved the best.

You can’t just love God. You have to love people, too. Loving God is more than reading the Bible, prayer, and church attendance. To obey is better than any sacrifice, and Jesus repeatedly taught us to love one another. Let’s face it, it’s relatively easy to love a loving God, but loving our enemies and neighbors is far different, especially since they are not perfect like Jesus!

As a church family, we are beta-testing some discipleship strategies. Jesus said to make disciples and we are very serious about not only making spiritual disciples but holistic disciples that are vibrant, healthy, and contagious (yes, I used health and contagious in the same sentence!).

What does an emotionally mature adult ultimately look like?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Jesus is our perfect example.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Does that describe you? If not, there is room for growth!

Jesus was the ultimate human being. He was the ultimate example of love. He was the most emotionally mature person to enter our world.

The amazing thing is that His power is alive and well through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is able to reside inside you, not to instantly make you perfect, but to help you grow in all aspects of your life. Growth takes time. It takes intentionality. It takes effort. It takes surrender to God.

Perhaps you’ve had the fire and passion for God but you’ve grown complacent and comfortable. Maybe your next step this morning is to recommit your life to Christ, invite the Holy Spirit to live inside you, and give you the courage to confront your past and the strength to create a healthier, whole future.

Maybe today is the day of salvation, the day you begin your journey, the day you learn how to love, knowing that you are loved…by God and by our faith family.

Regardless of where you find yourself in the spiritual journey, I want to encourage you to take the next step forward, to know God more, to know love more, and to love God and others more. John said

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

Arguably the best way we can love others is by first reflecting upon how much we are loved by God. This is why time with God is so valuable.

If you get nothing else out of this morning, know you are loved. You are precious to God. You were created in His image with value, dignity, and worth. We all have days when we are not all that lovable, yet God still loves us. In the same way we are to love the unlovable, sharing God’s love we have received with others.

The measure of our maturity is not how many sermons we’ve sat through or how many Bible verses we’ve memorized. The real measure of our maturity is how well we love…God…and others.

I don’t know about you, but I often struggle to love others. It truly requires effort, sacrifice, and intentionality. We love God because He first loved us. We love others because He loves them. We are able to love when desperately seek God and His love.
    Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

    • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Daily Office & Sabbath, 15 May 2016

    Discover The Rhythms of Daily Office and Sabbath
    Series: Go Deeper
    Daniel 6:10-12; Exodus 20:8-11

    The Big Idea

    The fifth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to discover the rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.


    The essence of this series is our lives are like an iceberg. Some of it is visible to others, but most is buried out of sight from the world, sometimes ourselves, but never from God. The sooner we can get real with ourselves, others and God, the sooner we will experience growth and breakthroughs. We’re all messed up and in need of help…which is where God and His people become so vital. We need God. We need one another.

    Author and pastor Pete Scazzero said his book
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

    “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives.”

    We’ve been looking at emotional health and for the conclusion of this series we will be looking at contemplative spirituality, tools and practices that help us to know God and His Word and become more like Jesus.

    A Disclaimer

    I hope it goes without saying, but let me emphatically state our authority at First Alliance is God and the Bible. I pray that I will never preach or even say anything contradictory to the Bible…and if I do, I urge you to tell me. I do not have the final word, and certainly Pete Scazzero or Billy Graham or John Stumbo or any other pastor or writer has the final word. I don’t agree with everything Scazzero has written and I especially don’t agree with every author Scazzero quotes. If you read
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality or any other book, be careful. Read with discernment. Ask me, an elder, or your group leader questions if something seems off. Some of you have, and I greatly appreciate it. We’re not always going to completely agree about everything in the Bible, but we need to sharpen one another…and I never want to speak anything but truth.

    Connecting With God

    All of life is about relationships. Just as there are many ways I can build a relationship with my wife—date nights, texts, phone calls, conversations at the dinner table at home, vacations, etc.—there are many ways we can build our relationship with God.

    How do you connect with God? Many people engage in religious activities to learn about or appease God. The essence of Christianity, however, is a relationship with God. All relationships require time, effort, and dedication. Today we will be discussing two powerful tools to help you grow in your relationship with God. These are not two things to add to your to-do list. They are not a measure of your spirituality. If used, however, they will radically enhance your relationship with God and yourself.

    We begin in the book of Daniel. Allow me to set the scene. King Belshazzar, the king of the Babylonians, was slain and Darius became the new king. Daniel was one of his top assistants. In fact, we are told

    Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:3)

    This made his colleagues envious.

    At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:4-5)

    They go to the king and ask him to make a law making it illegal to pray to any god or man except the king during the next thirty days.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” (Daniel 6:10-12)

    If you don’t know the rest of the story, check out Daniel 6.


    Our culture knows nothing about rhythms. We live life 24/7, an expression that was unknown a decade ago. We use words like chaos, scattered, distracted, stressed, and overwhelmed to describe our existence. We are always on the way to something or somewhere. We strive for bigger, better, and faster.

    How do I have a calm, centered life that is oriented around Jesus?

    You were created to know and love God and be known by and loved by Him.

    We need to slow down to connect with God. How?

    You cannot jump off a moving treadmill. You must slow it down first.

    The Daily Office and Sabbath bring rhythm to our lives daily and weekly.

    The Daily Office or Fixed-Hour Prayer: daily rhythm

    The Daily Office is simply about making space throughout the day for God. Office (
    opus) means “work of God” in Latin. Our work is to seek and be with God.

    Daniel is essentially at the University of Babylon. His name is changed and the leaders attempt to take God out of him. Our culture is much like Babylon, trying to make us think and act like the world rather than God.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10)

    Daniel prays three times each day on his knees. Do you?

    One of my favorite questions to ask of a biblical text is whether it is descriptive or prescriptive. Does it describe what someone did or does it prescribe for us today a behavior to imitate.

    I don’t think God commands us to go to an upstairs room, open our windows toward Jerusalem, and get on our knees three times a day to pray…but it’s not a bad idea!

    How do you meet with God each day? Reading the One Story Bible plan? Prayer at a certain time of day? A devotional?

    David wrote

    One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

    That is David’s work. An office is about being with God, not trying to get things from God. Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki:

    Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

    I think that is a prescription. I believe it’s a timeless mandate for all followers of Jesus. But how can we pray continually? How can we be aware of and conscious of God throughout the day? One way is to stop and pause throughout the day to be aware of His presence.

    Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. (Psalms 119:164)

    It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, (Psalm 92:1-2)

    Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalms 55:17)

    The Psalms are a prayer book. The Daily Office is frequently associated with Catholics or highly liturgical denominations, but all followers of Jesus can benefit from books of prayer that incorporate Scripture and reflection. The issue is not what you do, but getting connected with God through Scripture and silence where you can be still in the presence of God. The idea of the Daily Office is to stop several times throughout the day to pause and remember God. It is a discipline to order your day to remind you what is important in life: God.

    Meals provide such a rhythm for many of us, praying three times a day at morning, noon, and evening. Bedtime is another common time to talk with God.

    The Daily Office may involve prayer, reading scripture, journaling, taking a walk, or whatever helps you connect with God throughout the day. There’s no magic formula, but intentionality is crucial. What’s most important in your life? Show me your calendar and prove it!

    If your only time with God is an hour on Sunday, you can’t possibly have a deep relationship with God. You will develop spiritual anorexia. Just as I can’t expect to have a great marriage by talking with my wife for an hour on Friday night, I can’t expect to truly know God by only “going to church.” It’s a great practice, but more is needed. Spend time with God daily…the Daily Office.

    Sabbath: weekly rhythm

    Knowing and following God is radical. It is counter-cultural. It is revolutionary. Few things are more radical than Sabbath, a 24-hour break each week during which we rest. The word “Sabbath” appears 116 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. The seventh day is the first holy thing mentioned in the Bible. Sabbath is found in the Ten Commandments. Without the fourth and longest commandment, you cannot do the other nine.

    God’s Top Ten: Exodus 20:1-17

    1. You shall have no other gods before me
    2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
    3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

    4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord our God. On it you shall not do any work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11)

    5. Honor your father and your mother.
    6. You shall not murder
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not give false witness.
    10. You shall not covet.

    God commands rhythm in our lives of work and rest. Do you know what the penalty was for breaking the Sabbath?

    Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. (Exodus 31:14)

    Notice the Sabbath is listed in God’s Top Ten ahead of murder, adultery, and stealing.

    I know, it’s the Old Testament. We don’t follow the Old Testament law, right? It seems to me Jesus not only followed God’s instructions, He made them more challenging. He called lust adultery (Matthew 5:28) and unholy anger equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

    Jesus said,

    Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

    Sabbath is about
    rest. We need it. We were created to need it. Science merely confirms the wisdom of the Bible.

    [A study from Stanford] found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. (

    Sabbath is also about
    trust. Do you trust God can do more with six days than you can with seven?

    My Story

    I’ve had good and not-so-good seasons of Sabbath. Presently, I try to devote Saturdays as my unproductive day. Just saying that word “unproductive” sounds so wrong, but I believe that’s the intention of Sabbath. It’s like a weekly “snow day!” It’s a day to play, to relax, to delight, to reflect, to do things that replenish, to be grateful to God, to enjoy family and friends. We taste heaven on the Sabbath.

    Needless to say, you must prepare for the Sabbath. You can’t just do it. It’s not a punishment but a gift. There is no place for legalism, it is to be a delight.


    We live in Babylon. Our culture is diametrically opposed to God. We are bombarded by subtle and not-so-subtle messages that seduce us away from the things of God.

    If you are serious about following Jesus, you will need to do radical, counter-cultural things with your time, talents, and treasures. An hour on Sunday is not enough to maintain a relationship with God. A quick prayer at dinner or bedtime is not sufficient either. None of us—myself included—are able to spend all of our waking hours in prayer and Bible study, but we can periodically incorporate Scripture and silence into our daily lives and pause for one day a week to do nothing.

    There are no shortcuts to relationships. Ever!

    We were created to know God. The Daily Office and weekly Sabbath are biblical, powerful, and revolutionary ways to breathe deeply, be with God, and become like Jesus.

    All healthy relationships require time, intentionality, and variety. Experiment. There are biblical patterns for daily time with God that include prayer and time studying the Bible. There is a biblical pattern for a weekly Sabbath, a day of rest and refreshment. The goal is not following a formula but rather following Jesus…day by day, week by week, year by year…until He returns.

    Questions for Discussion

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    How did Daniel’s prayers affect his work? His life?

    Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to truly know God?

    Why is silence so difficult for us?

    Why is Sabbath so difficult for us? What prevents you from practicing Sabbath?

    What difference would a weekly Sabbath make in your life?

    What small step(s) can you take this week to know God?

    A Sample Daily Office For Groups

      For Further Reading

      Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today by Scot McKnight
        Credits and Stuff

        Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

        Series outline and ideas from
        Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

        Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
        The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

        Other study questions from
        Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

        • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.