Community Group Blog

Humbled through Work and Health

March 7, 2022
By Andrew Paulsen

If anything the pandemic has shown us is that health and work are both very important to most people and at the same time are sources of constant frustration. In fact, the reason they are so frustrating is because they are important. When our work seems so fruitless, when we feel buried or behind or even just bored, we have a tough time. And when our bodies aren't functioning well, we lack energy or are in pain or feel weak and tired, it makes life miserable and even scary. For me, what I've become to realize is that I probably won't arrive to a place where work is easy and my health is perfect. In fact, because of aging and society changing, I have very little control over either.
In the first half of Luke 5, Jesus meets some people who are struggling with work and health. Fishermen haven't caught anything all night, tired and literally empty. A man has his body covered in leprosy, rejected and in pain. Jesus shows to both that He is Master. The boat is filled with fish and the man is cleansed.  This display of power humbles them and their lives are changed.  Jesus can show himself through your work and he has compassion for your pain and suffering. That should create awe in us, and remind us that the Master of all is with us in our areas of struggle.

He Loves You When You Just Can't

February 27, 2022
By Andrew Paulsen

So the other day I tried to do a hike up Taquitz Peak in the snow. I went alone, wanting to try and go faster than I normally do with my family or youth group kids. I packed light. But I didn't realize how much snow had fallen, forcing me to start farther down from the trailhead and to trudge through snow up to my knees at some points. I used up my water and my legs got super tired. My feet were getting wet and cold. I hit a point where I could try and finish, getting home really late or just admit defeat and turn around. For the way I was raised and my personality, quitting is really hard. Yet I find that its in those times when I admit I can't is when I feel God's joy and grace most. By focusing less on my goal and just enjoying His creation as I turned back downhill, I relaxed and felt better.
Don't get me wrong, pushing through our own fears and limitations can be something God definitely calls us to do. But He also asks us to rest, to be still and know He is God. He says to Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing to just be at his feet instead of rushing around trying to do a lot. Jesus in Luke 4 shows that the people who admit they need help from sickness, demons, and other oppression can powerfully experience His love and power. But the ones who are too proud, even ones in His hometown who think He is just Joseph's son and has nothing to offer, end up missing out by rejecting Him. Admitting our weakness is the start of experiencing His grace.

Not the Hero But A Victor

February 20, 2022
By Andrew Paulsen

So many of the biggest movies have characters acheiving great things against amazing odds and enemies, which makes them heroes.  From the Avengers to Star Wars to James Bond to the Incredibles, they all have people who are able to have victory where most would fail. They are able to summon courage  and face the enemy.  And of course the greatest kind of hero is the one whose victory is not just for themselves but for others as well. Their battle was one of sacrifice and in service to their family, community, country and even the world (or universe!) This of course is something many of us find inspiring and cause us to secretly wish we have the chance to be the hero.
But we are not the hero of our own story. We were never meant to be the hero of the movie of our life. In Luke 4: 1-13, we see Jesus start to show how He is the true hero. He faces the enemy Satan and resists all sorts of temptation despite being hungry in the wilderness, lacking all sorts of comfort and protection. Jesus succeeds where Adam failed in the Garden of Eden; where we would all have failed. We were not made to be heroes, but we were made to be victors. Jesus' victory over Satan here, His victory over sin at the cross, and His victory over death at the resurrection are not just His alone, but to be shared by all of us. We get to be winners with Him! Our first step is to admit we're not the hero and He is. Then the victory we long for is promised us and guaranteed.

Set Goals, but Let God Lead

January 30, 2022
By Andrew Paulsen

Goals are great; I love goals. They can be great tools for growth and writing your life story. But they can be a burden too. Not too long ago was Quitting Day. It's the 2nd Friday of January and is unofficially when most people give up on their New Year's Goals because they've already failed. When goals go from a tool to our guide, it can be difficult. I saw this play out in my sons' basketball drill. They set goals for their shooting and when they had already come up short half way through the drill, they at times gave up on the rest of the shots. If acheiving the goal becomes the purpose of what we do and we already have messed up, most of us quit. But if we can keep our goals in proper perspective and let God's Holy Spirit and Word guide us, we can look past our failures, situation and other excuses and grow with Him.
At the beginning of Jesus' life in Luke 2, we see many people who had great excuses to quit. Joseph and Mary were poor and far from home. Simeon was old, Anna was an elderly widow. Jesus was just a boy. Yet Joseph and Mary still follow God's word and dedicate Jesus in the temple with the meager sacrifice they could afford. Simeon followed the Spirit's lead to the temple and prophesied over Jesus. Anna praised God in the temple and shared the good news of Jesus with others. And Jesus stayed in the temple to share His wisdom with people appearing much older and experienced than Him.  Let's remember Proverbs 16:9 this year "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" Keep your goals in their proper place, allowing God to lead you through everything.

A Table In the Presence of My Enemies

November 21, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

So many of our Community Groups wrapped up their time together this past week with food and fun, a sort of "Friendsgiving" It made me smile to see all the pictures of people laughing and having a good time, knowing these are genuine and real moments of joy. During this very divisive time in our country, it's good to be reminded we still have so much to be thankful for. God still prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies as it says in Psalm 23. And what's interesting, thanksgiving was created as a holiday by President Lincoln during a time where America was its own worst enemy. Check out a portion of his official proclamation that instituted the holiday. I find it fascinating that part of the battle to keep the country together was to focus on being thankful to God and to humbly ask Him to restore peace and harmony. Focus on Him and enjoy His table, not the enemy!
" I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." (President Lincoln, 1863)

BBQ Opportunities

November 7, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

Recently, my wife and I went to a BBQ for foster families that have been meeting together at our church. It was supposed to be an event for these families to hang out, play and laugh with their kids, and to continue to support one another. For many of these families, there can be emotional and stressful times as they seek to love and serve kids from tough situations. Yet, many of these families didn't just want to come, but to share. A family of 8 shared their ATV with many kids riding one for the first time. Another family brought ponies they have on their ranch so little kids could ride.  Many brought food. People helped hold babies or play games with energetic boys. It was truly a shared time of giving to each other and we were blessed to be part of this opportunity.
In Exodus 35-39, God asks His people to give generously towards building the tabernacle. For all to be part of this effort to create a new people and culture focused on worship and loving each other. God had already shown He was more than able to do this construction project on His own, but He designed people to have purpose and to participate. Out of the generosity that He gave to the people of Israel He asks them to give, and it says many were "moved" and "stirred" and gave abundantly out of what they had and what they could do. God has given each of us so much and we are more than able to give back. Just look for the next BBQ opportunity and share!

Burdens with Jesus

October 31, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

So when I was young we would visit my Nana and Poppop (that's what I called my grandparents, don't laugh!) I was expected to help carry in the luggage into their house.  A family of five with a Mom who insisted on bringing all kinds of food and pillows, there was a lot to carry. As I go bigger, I would try to carry 4 or 5 bags at once. Not only would it make the job go quicker, but I felt a sense of pride in my new strength. My Nana corrected me early on, saying, "Andrew, I don't want you marking up all my walls trying to show you're Superman!" So I stopped trying to carry so much, at least at her house.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says come to me all you are weary and heaven laden. Where does that load come from? Like my luggage story, it comes from others expecations and requests, it comes from our sense of pride and desire to do things ourselves, it comes from misunderstandings of what we're supposed to do. Jesus then says "Learn from me.... I am gentle and humble.... my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I have found I must learn from him first, and I learn about who He is and what He has asked for me.  And instead of being overwhelmed, I found I have clarity, I know what I'm supposed to carry and what not to carry. Jesus has said to me "Andrew, let me show you what you are to carry, and let me help carry it, you're not Superman." That's what being yoked to Jesus brings.

Frontline Friends

October 24, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

Charlotte and I have a good friend who serves as a missionary in the Middle East. She's a linguist working on Bible translations and has been able to come visit for the first time since the pandemic. It was fun to reconnect and remember old times and see how she's been doing. Her stories of what's it like to live in another culture and all the little things that take time to figure out and to navigate were fun to hear. We admire her courage and dedication to do something that few people notice in a place that many people would avoid.
At Calvary Murrieta, we've been blessed to get to know quite a few missionaries and even be able to visit some of them to help on short-term mission projects. Many of these missionaries are ordinary people just like us, but have an extra-ordinary call on their lives. It's cool to take a step back and admire what they've been through and challenges they've faced and to think "I know them!" Having Frontline Friends, people you care about who are advancing the gospel, is an honor, but also a responsibility.  Let's remember to pray, give, and encourage our Frontline Friends.

Repair Attempts Lead to Shining Relationships

October 17, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

Someone once said  the most simple of truisms: "Relationships are hard" Especially these past few years, it just seems that building and maintaining trust seems so difficult. Many different experts throughout different eras and cultures have pointed out that working through difficult spots in a relationship can eventually lead to a deeper level of trust and intimacy. Dan Effinger in his biblical counseling course calls these a "repair attempt".  It's through repair attempts that we learn to overcome our fears of rejection and loneliness and learn that we are loved, despite all our faults and failures.
In Exodus 34, God guides Moses through a repair attempt for the whole nation of Israel. Moses climbs a mountain and meets with God, where He goes on to remind Moses of His character, His promises, and His guidelines for the people. Moses and the people aren't abandoned or ruined. God is still going to do great things through them. Moses' face literally shines with God's glory as a result of this repair attempt, signalling a deeper relationship with his Heavenly Father. Let us make time to meet with God despite all our fears and failures and allow Him to repair us so we shine with His glory.

More of You and Less of My Way

October 10, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

I was one of 3 boys and stereotypically our lives was filled with sports. It was my dad's fault, he loved sports, especially basketball. Lots of 2 v 2 in the driveway, watching the Lakers, and playing in rec leagues was part of my childhood. And then as I played in high school, the schedule was filled with tournaments and practices and travel to games.  My mom would exclaim, "I'm sick of basketball ruling our lives!" She would have enjoyed some more weekends filled watching musicals or having dinner parties or just some quiet reading.  It was just one of the areas where my mom and dad were different and would sometimes argue. But like most couples who've weathered the storms of life and worked through their own hurts, she and my dad came to really enjoy their relationship, experiencing a deeper oneness. Now that he's gone, she would give anything to travel to a game together to watch just to be with him.  She would want more of him and not just her way.
In Exodus 33, we see one of the most beautiful pictures of intimacy with God. Moses has a habit of meeting with God in a tent where they would talk. After years of being challenged by God, complaining to God, reluctantly following God and struggling to obey God, Moses has an interesting request. He just wants to see more of God's glory. Not a miracle, not some wisdom, not even a vacation. He realizes there's so much more to God than he's experienced and like a true worshipper, he's just more and more in awe of Him after years of being with Him.  So let's be like Moses and seek to have a deeper sense of oneness with God. It doesn't happen overnight, but like a couple who've been together for a long time, there's a sense of trust and initmacy that's solid. Let's desire more of Him and not just our way.

Rat Traps and Serving God

September 26, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

"Andrew! There's a rat!"
At least I think that's what I heard, the half-scream half-whisper at 6am was hard to make out. But it got me up and going way better than any caffeine infused drink could ever do.  The rat ran out and was gone, but then we saw it again in the garage and evidence of its activities in the yard. I got out some traps that seemed too small, but maybe I would get lucky! But all we saw the next couple of days was that the bait was gone but not the rat. It was one more failure in a very frustrating week for me. Sometimes there are weeks when you feel like you are in the wrong job or position and you can't seem to do anything right.
In Exodus 28-29 and 31,  we see God calling and ordaining priests as well as craftsmen to serve in the tabernacle. This is an ancient example of how God has gifted us all and has prepared ways for us to serve Him. But gifting isn't enough, God calls us and empowers us through His Holy Spirit. He gets to define what success looks like. I'm sure the priests and the craftsmen at times were going through the motions or wishing they got more attention or wanting to do things their way. I know that's partly why I felt like a failure, that things weren't going the way I wanted. But God wants us to worship Him, not ourselves. And the good news is He can take our impure motives and mistakes and turn them for good.
Like my rat problem. I got a new, bigger trap and used the same bait. The rat was so excited to feast again it was caught in under 10 minutes! My failure had led to success.... and a happy wife.

Show Up to God's Place

September 19, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

"Don't forget to light the candles!"
Charlotte likes candles to be lit whenever we have guests over. Smells are important to her, well, I should say good smells are important to her. We have hosted lots of youth events and sports team parties and birthdays over the years and while we would never claim to be amazing decorators or hosts, we do enjoy the process of preparing for people to come and connect with others. Thinking through how the experience hits all the senses: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel and the flow of activities can be hard but there are times when it seems to work and its rewarding. But it's only rewarding if our guests show up.
In Exodus 25-27 and 30, we see God designing the place where He would "dwell" or live with His people and meet with them. God wanted them to have a powerful experience through the look of the furniture and lighting, the smells of the incense and oils, and the sound of the music and prayers. People would be reminded of how holy God was and how great His mercy was to forgive His sins. But the Jews would need to show up and participate in this special place.
 This tabernacle only foreshadowed how Jesus did everything to prepare way for all people to experience God's power and grace freely.  And again, all we have to do is show up.

You Can Rest, Trust Him

September 12, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

"You look tired, you ok?" I've heard that a lot lately, from my wife, from a colleague, from my sons. It has been like trying to walk in wet cement as work and life have been trying to move forward in this Covid-19 pandemic. After having so much time together as a family during the lock downs, it feels we don't see each other much. Protocals at work seem to make things more tense, and school and sports schedules for the kids aren't smooth and easy. Things just aren't easy.
Or maybe it's my perspective. I had a lot of goals for the fall, things I wanted to accomplish, see happen. And I find myself constantly frustrated because I'm nowhere near where I wanted to be. So I keep spinning my wheels and I'm exhausted.
In the message this week on Exodus 23-24, we see that God calls us to celebrate and rest, trusting in what He has provided. He doesn't say climb higher, work harder, but to stop, rest, enjoy. And He says that He will bring victory, but it will take time.
It hit me that the people were to rest and celebrate before they had complete victory. Making celebrations as part of the journey was to be their culture and rhythm. Trusting God would provide allowed them to rest.
So can I rest before I'm done? God says yes, so I guess I need to trust Him on that.

Limitations Become Launchpads

February  28, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

Limitations can be so irritating, especially to us frontier crossing, boundary challenging, don't take no for an answer Americans. Rule breaking and defying limitations is in our blood. And that's why the covid pandemic has been so hard, there's been so many limitations put on us. But sometimes those limitations create opportunities, even launchpads, that God is using to share His love and to grow our character. Health limitations have allowed some people to focus on the people near to them. Work limitations have allowed people to reflect on what God really wants for them. Dining limitations have encouraged more family dinners and conversations. (I still can't think of a gospel moment with the toilet paper limitations, but with God all things are possible!)
Paul was severely limited throughout his journey to Rome, being shipwrecked, delayed, and imprisoned. He literally had a chain limiting his movement. Yet that limitation led him to share with so many people, from leaders to fellow prisoners, across the Mediterranean. Much of what we read in the Bible was written by him while he was forced to slow down as he was under house-arrest. His limitation helped launch the gospel, another reminder of the truth that in our weakness, He is strong.  So what's limiting your freedom right now, and are you willing to let God turn it into a launchpad for His Glory?

Allow Others to Help to Help Them

Feb 23, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

Asking for help can be really hard. Admitting you need someone to do something for you is humbling. Yet, in those times of need, is when we sometimes connect the most with others. One youth pastor once wrote about how a young man learned more about God by helping him build a doghouse on a Saturday then all the talks and camps that he had ever been a part of. The time spent helping his youth pastor  and seeing his family up close and hearing how they spoke to one another and how they laughed opened him up to listening to his youth pastor, not only that day, but going forward in other events. And remember, this kid was asked to help by his youth pastor who needed it. By allowing this young man to help, the youth pastor was able to help this young man learn more about God.
Paul and his fellow travelers were in desperate need of help after being marooned on the island of Malta. The locals, labeled barbarians by the Romans and Greeks, were kind and served these survivors. Through that open door, Paul was able to show God's power and love to these people. Imagine if the crew and Paul had refused to receive help out of fear or pride of these strangers. They never would have seen Paul survive the snake bite or heard the gospel message. When we are vulnerable and admitting we don't have it all together, we are most approachable. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong. So our goal is not to become the most independent, self-sufficient individual ever, but to be powerfully used to love one another to God's glory. Sometimes that means allowing others to help so we can help them.

Crisis Causes Change

Feb 14, 2021
By Andrew Paulsen

My wife Charlotte and I didn't have the best Valentines' early in our relationship. We'd have different expectations, misunderstandings, and we just came away disappointed. But through those early storms in our marriage we learned to better communicate and understand each other and appreciate one another and we've had some good celebrations, and don't worry when we don't because of kids or work or health stuff. And through even bigger storms of life we've faced together, we grew stronger and closer.  Crisis has a way of doing that, helping us realize we need to change if we're going to get through it.
Paul and his friends in Acts 27 face a scary storm out at sea. And many of the sailors learned that their routines, their expertise, even the stars couldn't help them. And they struggled with fear, with wanting to abandon ship, and even remembering to eat! But Paul reminds them to have courage, to stay together, and to have some food.  Where did his hope and wisdom come from? Like Pastor Brian said, from God's presence which gave Paul peace and protection.  Crisis reminds us of God, which is always His plan, to be with us, even in the storm. And His presence changes everything!

Devoted Building Blocks

Feb. 7, 2021
By: Andrew Paulsen

When my sons were little, they liked to build towers out of blocks, Legos, pillows, or whatever else they could find at times. It was exciting to see how tall it could get, but they soon learned they had to think about how they started this tower and how they placed each thing on top of the others. Of course, they liked to watch the whole thing fall or knock it down, unless it was their brother knocking it down before they were finished!
Sometimes as we take on new goals or start new chapters in our lives, we have this same sense of wanting to build something that will last, that won't fall down in a dramatic mess. And we know there are people and problems that are going to try to knock us off our path and make it hard for us.
That's why being devoted to those things that help us build wisely are important. Because if we keep at it, the foundation and structure won't be completely destroyed when problems hit, we'll have an easier time of picking up and moving forward. My Community Groups team and I wrote words on Jenga Blocks of those things we are devoted to doing as we build groups this spring. Prayer, Encouragement, Authenticity, Patience, Available, and Humility were just a few of the words some of us devoted to.  And we're devoted to each other in brotherly love, like Romans 12:10 says. Sharing our commitment to God and each other will allow us to build in way that creates something that is pleasing to Him.

P.O.W.- Prisoner of Waiting

By Andrew Paulsen
Date: 1/24/21

At church recently we've had a couple of staff members who were pregnant or had spouse's who were pregnant. And like most, while they were nervous for the big day and all the stuff that can happen on top of all the new hospital regulations, they couldn't wait for the pregnancy to be over ASAP. They just wanted to get it over with, but there wasn't much they  could do, they were a prisoner to the time schedule of that little one.
Many of us have felt that way these past 12 months. Waiting for schools to resume, waiting for the election to be completed, waiting for Disneyland to reopen! We've felt held back, trapped and a prisoner to waiting.
Paul in Acts 25 is still waiting to be released from prison, a place he's been for many years. He's had practically no control over his situation and has had to go on trial multiple times for false accusations. He's a prisoner of waiting, but each trial he shows wisdom and courage. And I would like to think it's because while he's been a prisoner of waiting, he's been preparing. He's been thinking through his options, what rights he has, what words he can say. Just like parents-to-be show wisdom in preparing for their new child, we all should seek ways to prepare for what God has next as we wait. 

Character in  Your Character

By Andrew Paulsen
Date: 1/17/21

Just the other day I was at a wedding, a very small wedding of course because of Covid-19 regulations. A since it was so small, it was easy to see and talk to almost all of the guests. And of course people play certain roles, especially within their family: the funny one, the sentimental one, the partier, the worrier, peace-maker, and the shy wallflower. But like actors who find motivation to play their role, people also have their reasons for doing what they do: to preserve the peace, to gain favor, to frustrate and annoy, or to serve and help, to  show love.  That's what God looks at: what is the motivation going on inside our hearts. What's the character in the character we're playing.

In Acts 24, we have 3 characters: the lawyer Tertullus, the Governor Felix, and the prisoner Paul. Each one has their motivation and methods in the role they find themselves in. Tertullus has learned to win influence and power through flattery and deceit, praising Felix and slandering Paul. Felix has long been used to getting bribes and exchanging favors to gain position and wealth. And Paul has determined to be courageous, to live with a "clear conscience" even if that means he is imprisoned and persecuted. It's not the role we find ourselves in that's important, but the reality in our hearts that matters. Have character as you the play the character you've been given.


By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 1/10/2020

A Late Happy New Year to everyone! Of course, many of us have been looking at photos, memes, and videos of highlights of the past year. Most of us were hoping that somehow 2021 would signal a change from the chaos and stress of 2020, but we've already been disappointed.  One of my favorite quotes that what used a lot last year was “You know what comes out of pipes when they are under pressure? Whatever’s inside them.” Which of course sounds like a dad joke, but also has some good wisdom. Whatever we have inside of us will come out in those times of stress. Many of us have felt lots of pressure, put through tension in ways we never imagined last year on this date.
And if you think about plumbing, most pipes have some sort of release valve, a way to relieve pressure.  And many of us have our coping mechanisms, our ways of finding stress relief. But many of our normal ways of coping: going to the gym, eating out at a restaurant, hanging out with friends and family, of even attending church, were drastically changed or limited.
So with all that pressure and without the normal forms of support or relief, what happened? If you’re like many, you did all the unhealthy binging: binging on Netflix, on junk food, on Amazon shopping. Or you burst, and you found you had a lot more gunk in your system than you wanted to admit: anger, bitterness, worry, lust, greed. That was me: at times I would get short-tempered, critical, and obsess over finances. So if there was any year there was pressure to do better, to make changes, to improve, it would be this year right?
And in our slogan driven society, there’s all kinds of phrases people have chosen for their goals or focus. My inbox has tons of them and I noticed a trend: many were "r" words: Renew, Refocus, Re-connect, Re-center, Revive, Realize, Restore, Rejoice. And these are all good words, but I want to throw out a different r-word for you: Remain.
In John 15, we see Jesus facing extreme pressure, and his friends kind of know he’s in a tough place, but don’t totally get it and don’t realize they are about to face tons of pressure too. You see he’s about to be arrested and then crucified. And their main source of comfort and strength, Him, will be killed before their eyes. And so he does another object lesson to help them understand how to live as his followers. There are grapevines along the road and in this farm-based society, they were all familiar with vines.
My sons and I are familiar with vines too. Our house is on a hill where it sits lower than the street behind it. Our backyard originally had a slope, but a previous owner ingeniously removed lots of dirt and built a retainer to give it more space and planted vines that cover part of the wall at the top. It creates a sense that we’re in our own little oasis. But those vines grow like crazy and about twice a year my sons and I trim them back. I’ve pretty much guaranteed that my boys will never have vines in their future homes, they don’t like this chore. We get dusty, scratched, and it takes hours. Pruning is hard work, and while we have self-cleaning ovens, and soon self-driving cars, we don’t have self-pruning vines.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:5 "I Am the Vine, You Are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." And He says a little earlier, "every branch that bears fruit, my father prunes so that it bears more fruit."
This takes trust and a focus on our loving father instead of the fruit. Because if we focus on the fruit, we think we’re ok, that things are going well. But God sees more for us, God has plans that we don’t know about. And after last year, we should realize there were lots of weeds mixed in our fruit and we need Him to do some work on us. So let's trust Him, submit to his pruning, and Remain with Him this 2021.

Walk with Purpose in Discipleship

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 10/26/2020

This last weekend my family and I made a trip to hike in a canyon that’s known for beautiful fall colors. It didn’t disappoint. The aspen trees were gold and orange and leaves would gently fall to the ground as we walked. The hike did some effort as we had to climb a little to get to one of the bigger glades. But the view of the valley with the stream and a small lake surrounded by autumn colors was worth it. Walking uphill takes a sense of purpose. It doesn’t just happen. There’s some effort involved and some willingness to push through some discomfort as the air gets thin and the legs start to burn. And when it’s your first time on a hike, you’re not exactly sure of how hard the ascent will be or how long it will take. The easy thing to do is to just stay in the flat area and take pictures, but then your experience is so much more limited.

The same is true in discipleship. Pastor Andy Dean spoke on the importance of intentionally discipling people God has placed in our lives, especially our kids. When we build a relationship with someone and realize we have an opportunity to help them grow
in their faith, it can be exciting at first. But soon we realize that it takes some work and a sense of purpose. 
Otherwise, the conversations stay flat and safe. But if we know that it’s worth it to take the conversations to a higher level, to be vulnerable about our own struggles and willing to ask some potentially awkward questions. Of course, we don’t know exactly how long this path of discipleship will take or how hard some of these talks might be, but if we trust God has a purpose in it, we will venture forward.

Our hike ended up being pretty easy, even though it was rated “Hard” by some website. We think it was because of the beauty of that valley and the fun talks we had while walking. As you seek to be faithful in the relationships God has given you, remember if you look at Him and see His glory and talk with him, the journey ends up being much more pleasant than what most people predicted.

Safe Fans for Bad Fans

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 10/12/2020

“While I am a huge sports fan, I am also a terrible sports fan. The reason is that I often don’t show up and watch when the games matter the most. Last week my Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th championship, and I barely watched any of the games. It looked like they were going to clinch the whole thing during Game 5, so I made time to watch it, only to see them lose at the last second. My heart had been pounding, my blood was rushing, I was yelling at the screen; I was fully engaged. And I let myself care, I got emotionally involved in the outcome of the team. Now, this is why many people love sports: the emotion, the drama. It’s similar for people who have their favorite soap opera or reality tv show or movie: the feelings we get make us feel alive. But not me, I don’t want to be disappointed. So, I was glad I had an event Sunday evening and couldn’t watch the next game. I was nervous and didn’t want to be crushed again. It was easier to disconnect and be loosely involved; I was safe. And it showed I didn’t truly believe in my team.

In Acts 18 as Paul’s ministry starts to take off in Corinth, he gets nervous and anxious too. And the Lord speaks to him, telling him to not to be afraid and to stay for an extended period of time. We don’t know exactly why Paul was afraid, but as Pastor Brian mentioned, the messiness of working in that culture that we see in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians was probably overwhelming and daunting. It would definitely be easier to be less connected and involved. But that’s not how you build gospel centered communities. You show up, you care, you share your life with other people and show the true meaning of life found in Jesus. So let’s not make the mistake of avoiding community because it’s hard and messy and brings up all kinds of emotions. Let’s embrace allowing ourselves to be raw and real and allow Jesus to work in us, despite us, and be there for each other. Because when we do that, we show we believe in Him.

In Common to In Community

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 10/5/2020

“Me Too!” This was about the tenth time in the last 10 minutes my wife and I had heard this phrase. Charlotte and I were getting to know a young couple as part of giving them advice and perspective before they got married. The young bride-to-be was excited to be talking with another couple and was discovering more and more of what she had in common with one of us. Those similarities made her comfortable and more willing to share. This wasn’t forced or even strategic, it just was happening over a meal. And that’s something I think can happen at most tables around the world: if we take time and open up, we’ll find things we have in common with just about anybody. Of course, the opposite is true too: if we take time and open up, we’ll find differences with just about anybody. The question is, what do we do with those discoveries? Do we enjoy and build on those things in common, or become bored and dismissive? Do we find those differences fun and interesting, or reasons to avoid and hold back?

Paul in Acts 17 has the perspective to appreciate and work through differences he had with the Athenians as well as use the commonalities to make connections. He wanted share the love of God with them in a way as best he could so they would listen and be able to respond. If we’re going to share the gospel with the people around us, having a similar outlook on people will truly help. And if you think about it, commonalties are good building blocks for a community. And love is the best motivation to build. Let’s find the commonalities, appreciate the differences and let God’s love drive us to build gospel centered communities.

Are You Tone-Deaf or In-Tune?

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 9/29/2020

With distance learning going on at my house with my 2 sons, I get to be part of band class! As cool as that may sound, it’s really an interesting experience. I’m used to hearing my sons play as they practice. They of course are learning and make mistakes. But now I hear the rest of the class over Zoom and the mistakes are multiplied, the timing is off, and it’s just a melodious mess! (Some of you are literally cringing as you read this, I personally find it kind of funny.) You can quickly tell that many of these kids are struggling with being in-tune. They don’t have their instructor there to help them with their instrument or give them a quick one-on-one tip. They really have to work at being in-tune with the rest of the band and the band director. Otherwise, they are in danger of being tone-deaf, which throws off the whole experience.

We also can be tone-deaf in our relationships and in our community. There are lots of reasons why this happens, but the big

Being Unaware

Just like a musician not paying attention to the music on the page or the director’s lead, we can be in our own little world and totally unaware of what’s going on around us. This leads us into doing things are are totally out of tune with what other’s are going through.
Not listening

It’s hard to play good music without having an ear for music. And many musicians will train their listening skills to pick out the chords and notes to harmonize with. The same is in our relationships. We need to practice good listening skills, otherwise we’ll be tone deaf. Do we hear what our family members are saying? Do we notice the tone and posture of our co-workers and neighbors?

Paul in Acts 17 shows he’s in tune with the people of Athens. He’s aware of all the idols. He’s listened to their philosophers and leaders. And he goes one step further: he cares. It says he was stirred in verse 16. He let the tune affect him and he responded. He reached out and met them where they were at.

But like a middle school band, if you only listen to the people around you, it’s not going to go well. If we pay attention to God and listen to him, he will direct us so that we in His will. And when a community is in tune with Him and each other, that’s when we have harmony.

Fellowship Found in a Hospital

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 9/28/2020

Our church is not very far from a hospital. You can see it right from the freeway just a few minutes after you see Calvary Murrieta. Hospitals are interesting places. Some of the most intelligent people work there with the most sophisticated machines, yet it’s a place nobody wants to go... until they have to go. In hospitals you experience amazing joy and crushing grief, the beginning of a new life and the end.

Hospitals are also places of amazing support and community. Last week, as many of you know, the Collins had to rush to the hospital as their oldest son had an unexpected episode that led to lengthy CPR and an ambulance trip. The nurses and doctors at Loma Linda acted quickly and fortunately he survived. I was able to visit the family that evening and though things were still tense and a lot of questions had to be answered, there was such support and love from friends and family who were there even though they couldn’t go in. Literally we are all outside along the sidewalk. Jamie and Meghan Collins were planning on being Community Group leaders. They were excited and committed to helping people connect and grow closer to God and each other. I understand better why. They wanted to pass on what they had already received from so many. Grace...Prayer... Encouragement...Love. I was honored and humbled to be part of that group that night which showed such Godly support.
2 weeks ago in Acts 16: 25-34 we heard Brian teach about the jailer in Philippi was converted after he experienced the love and joy that Paul and Silas had while in jail, so much of it so that they didn’t escape when they could have but stayed to talk to him. Paul and Silas I’m sure had an easier time making that decision to stay because they had been able to pray and praise together. Praying and Praising God in a community is so powerful, and it often leads to a powerful witness. Like family and friends standing outside a hospital, praying and comforting each other.

Off the Map

By: Andrew Paulsen
Date: 9/15/2020

Have you ever wanted to know exactly where you’re going? Of course you have. It’s why map apps are some of the most used features on our phones. It’s why a generation ago Garmins were big sellers for people to have in their cars. It’s why a real long time ago AAA was famous for all its free maps and travel guides to its members (My mom still has a collection in the glove box!)

And many of us wish we had a map for our life. That we knew the route, the journey, the ups and downs ahead of time so we would be prepared. But unfortunately, God doesn’t give us a map for our lives. So what do we do?

Choose Adventure over Anxiety

Not knowing where we’re going can makes us feel anxious. We don’t want to get lost, we don’t want to make a wrong turn, we don’t want to have to waste time or energy. But let’s be honest. Even when we think we have the control and know exactly what will happen, we still feel anxious. And something usually does go wrong, and we realize that we don’t have control. So instead of being anxious, we can adopt the attitude of adventure. We can look forward to the unexpected blessings and challenges and enjoy the discoveries that come with them. If we accept the adventure and take pleasure in discovery, going off the map is good.

Choose the Maker over the Map

For those who believe God is in control, it can be quite frustrating when God allows the unexpected twists and turns into our lives. And often, we ask God for the map of our lives, of our future. We say “God can you just give the layout of what’s going on?
Can I have a map?” And instead, God says, “Hey, I’m going to jump in the car and be your guide, we’ll go together. Won’t that be fun?” Most of us resist, “Yeah, but, can I know?” I picture God responding with a smirk and a twinkle in His eye “No, I’ll just tell you to turn left or right when we get to those crossroads.” In other words, God is in control, but if you’re like me, you don’t want to be in that place of dependence, you don’t want to need God to be your guide. But if we accept God as our guide, we don’t just get to have an adventure with amazing discoveries, but we have a relationship that is rich with moments and memories.

Acts 1:7 "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Our theme for the fall is "Off the Map". It fits the book of Acts we’ll be studying. Paul and the rest of his team were literally going to places they’ve never seen, experiencing things they’ve never dreamed about in the lives. God was fulfilling his promise in Acts 1:7 of going to the ends of the earth. That’s where Paul and Timothy and Barnabas and Peter lived in Acts, off the map. And that’s where Community Groups is going to live in the Election Year, Covid Crazy time of 2020. We bring our experiences and gifts with us, we go together and not alone, and we let God be our guide. He’s the mapmaker; He knows where He’s leading us.