In this message, Pastor Jacob talked about how you can be a BETTER YOU at the end of this.

City Lights Church is a contemporary Christian church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, VA. City Lights Church is a part of the Vineyard USA network and an ARC family member.

TRANSCRIPT

Hey there, and welcome to the City Lights Podcast. City Lights is a church located in the northwestern part of Richmond, Virginia. For more information about City Lights you can visit us at wearecitylights.com. Now enjoy today’s message.

Welcome to City Lights Online. I’m so glad you could join us today. My name is Jacob and I’m on the team here, and we are kicking off a brand new fun series called My Quarantine, Tiger King, Is This Real Life Life. And I think a lot of us are asking that question. Is this real life right now? Is this really happening? Am I gonna wake up from a dream. This is real life guys. This is really happening. We’re quarantined in our homes while working from home or we’re in and out of zoom calls all day. Your kids are all up in your business. Now you’re running the Magic School Bus. You’re a teacher, some of you out there, and on top of that, on top of all the craziness on all the craziness going on, we have this show about big cat loving people who are just the craziest people ever, that we can’t stop watching this show. We can’t stop looking at all these crazy memes. And somehow, maybe, it gives us comfort in our lives. I don’t know. But this is what is going on. You know, is this real life right now? Is this what’s really happening?

Now Jesus says this, check this out. John 10:10, he says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy…” that’s pretty intense. But he says that he has come that you may have life and have it to the full. Now that really sounds good and looks good. It’s one of those great ones to see: Jesus brings life, life overflow. One translation says that Jesus brings life abundantly. That sounds good. Everyone wants the abundantly life.

But this verse is kind of hard to relate to in these conditions when Tiger King is the best thing we got going for us sometimes. But what does this mean? What does this verse mean for us in our time? We’re going to take the next two weeks and we’re going to figure this out. How can we live a full life in this condition? So

if you’re taking notes, you can title part one of this series Grow in This. Grow in This.

Now for Erin and I, this time of us being in quarantine has been a mixture of a struggle – some happiness, a little depression, if I’m being honest, and really just a redefining what’s happening here now. As most of you guys know, City Lights Church is brand new. Before this quarantine happened, we were under 100 days old. We were a brand new church when we launched.

So when we moved from our home in Virginia Beach, to this wonderful city of Richmond that we are absolutely falling in love with, we moved to start and in person faith community, not an online faith community. But within the first two months now we’re holding online services, we got all these different things happen and it leaves us asking, “Is this real life? Is this real? Did we really move to do this? Is this real life right now?”

But we had to make a decision. And you’re gonna have to make this decision, too. We had to make a decision that God is still good even when things don’t go the way that we planned. God is still good. God is still faithful in this. So even with that, we’re taking on some home projects. We just bought a house in the beginning of the year, and so we’re taking on some projects that we wanted to do, and in that I have become a gardener. Yes, I’m officially a gardener. I think I have all the credentials. I’m not really sure, but I really enjoy working on the yard, working on my garden. The only problem is when it comes to the garden and yard work, the yard work process takes a lot longer than my character. I’m an instant gratification type person. I like things to happen instantly. C’mon, let’s make this thing happen. Yard work, however, is a process. It takes time for things to grow. There’s a few yard projects that I want to tackle but the first one has just been pulling up some weeds in our garden and then re-mulching.

I have to say this. I’ve been watching Martha Stewart my whole life. So I did feel like I was pretty prepared to to pull up some weeds, re-mulch, and plant some flowers. In my head, I was thinking if Martha showed me the way, this finna be a breeze; we’re going to do this thing. It’s gonna be awesome. But it will end up being a lot harder than I thought.

So I go to Home Depot and buy what I assumed was plenty of mulch. I assumed like this is a lot. These bags are heavy. This is a lot of mulch. I got back to the house, I began to do all this stuff that I learned in all the YouTube videos that I watched on how to manage a yard. And I started to lay the mulch down. I’m thinking “oh this is challenging.” I pick up the last bag, and I dump it and then I look at my garden area, and I’m like, “Oh shoot, I only mulched like 20% of my garden right now.” There’s still so much I got to do left. I was like what the heck, I bought all this mulch, but I still need to buy more.

The next day, I said this is my project. I’m about to do this thing. I’m a gardener now. I am a gardener. I’m Martha Stewart. I’m a gardener. So the next day I get up and say man, I don’t want to go all the way down to Home Depot, it’s a Saturday morning and I said, “man I want to go all the way down to Home Depot. I’m gonna go to this local hardware store. I’m gonna support local businesses. I’m gonna go to this little hardware store right down the street from my house.” I go there, they have brown mulch, and in my head I’m like, “brown mulch is brown mulch.” Let me get it. So I go in, I buy a bunch of bags, I buy triple the amount of bags I bought the first time so I put around like 20 to 25 bags in my car. So I put them all in by myself because everyone’s social distancing and they can’t help you. No one can come near to help you. So I put all these bags in the car and I said, “man this is a workout,” and drive all the way back to my house. I take all the bags out of my car. Then I pick up the mulch bag, I rip it open, and I begin to dump this brown mulch next in my other brown mulch. And then I discovered very fast there’s different shades of brown mulch. 50 shades of brown going on around here right now.

I contemplated for a second. Maybe two colors of brown will be cool. Then I said let’s not do that. The gardening life is getting hard right now, in this moment.

So I say, all right. I gotta take the mulch back. I put all the mulch back in my car besides what I opened, of course, and take all the other ones back back to the hardware store, return it, I got to take all the mulch out of my car again, and then leave it on the sidewalk because social distancing and they gotta now clean the bags of mulch that I just bought, because they don’t want the mulch to be filled with the corona. So then I drive all the way to Home Depot. Like I said, it’s a Saturday morning, I pulled up in the parking lot at Home Depot. And there’s a line just outside the whole place. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, is this even worth it?” Then I say, “no, no, I’m going to do this. I’m gonna tackle this thing, and I’m gonna make it happen because this is my life right now. I’m a gardener, this is what I’m doing.”

So I get in line. And the line is wasn’t too bad. All these companies have been doing a good job with getting people in and out of the stores and keeping people safe. But anyway, so I’m in this line, then – I can’t make this part up – everyone is standing six feet from each other. But then this dude behind me, either he doesn’t watch the news, or he’s just a complete ass, one of the two. He stands right up behind me with his little shopping cart. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, is this dude for real? Just on a shopping cart.” Then to make matters even worse, this guy’s on the phone and whoever he’s talking to on the phone, he’s complaining about the line saying, “Oh, I can’t believe they’re making us stay in a line. I can’t believe I just can’t go in the store.” I’m like, “dude, do you even watch the news? Like do you know anything that’s happening in the world right now?” He’s talking so loud, and then – I promise you, I can’t make this up – my man starts to cough. He’s coughing. Just coughing. Everyone in this line was about to go Mike Tyson on this dude. I’m serious, they were about to uppercut him. All the stuff was about to go down up in this line at Home Depot in Short Pump. It was about to go down. So finally I’m like, “man Jesus, you need to help me with this one because I’m about to go off on this dude behind me right now.” Eventually everyone kind of slides over in the line and gives my man his own little space over there. Home Depot people, they’re awesome, they got us right through the line.

Right when they got me in the store, I bolted to the to the garden section, grabbed all the mulch I needed then I went home and burnt my clothes up. I’m joking. I didn’t do that part. But I did wash my hands really good for more than 20 seconds.

But this is real life. This is the life we’re in right now. I’m going to Home Depot wanting to uppercut a dude behind me who’s coughing. This is life right now this is what’s going on. But we got the mulch, we did all the stuff and then the whole family, me, Erin, and Kingsley, we end up doing the garden together, and we just made a decision: We’re gonna make the best of this in this situation. And it’s going to be okay, we’re going to do this.

So I want to encourage you today with this thought, maybe you feel like, I can’t wait for things to go back to normal, whatever normal is going to be after this anyways. Or maybe you’re thinking I’ll just put my life on pause right now because things are out of whack. I’m going to encourage you with this. I believe you can grow where you are right now.

My starting point today is this. I can’t believe this is real life. I can’t believe that I’m not at work. I can’t believe that I’m a small business owner that had to let people go. I can’t believe that I can’t freely go in and out in stores. I can’t believe Carol Baskin got away with feeding her husband to tigers. I can’t believe it. She probably did it. I don’t know. I can’t believe this is real life.

But my destination point today is this. You can be a better you at the end of this. And I really mean you can. I really think you can do this. Resistance is our best opportunity to push harder and get the results that we want. Like I mentioned earlier, Jesus says that there’s a thief who wants to steal from you kill and destroy. But Jesus brings a full life. Now what does that mean?

Jesus does tell a parable about a farmer and planting the seeds. And since I’m a gardener now, it felt like it was the right story to tell, so Matthew 13 in the Message version of the Bible, it says this, this is Jesus’s story, he says, “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed, and as he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and the birds ate it. Some fell on the gravel and it’s sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up, they withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds and as it came up it was strangled by the weeds, some fell on good earth and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Hey Jesus, I’m listening to this right now. Here’s Jesus telling this parable about seeds falling into four different areas that have four different results. And I believe no matter the season of life you are in, no matter the conditions, you have to determine your approach to the season of life you are in.

When Jesus says he gives us a full life. He’s not talking about giving us vacation spots. He’s not talking about giving us just our dream jobs. He’s not talking about life is just gonna be an easy walk in the park. When he says he’s gonna give us a full life, when Jesus is talking about giving us a full life, he’s saying something more. A full life in Jesus is found when you have complete peace in a challenging season. A full life in Jesus is found when you have complete joy when it’s hard to be joyful in a season of life that is challenging. A full life for Jesus is found when you do not have to go back to your old destructive behavior, behaviors and habits and rituals and routines to fill a void that you feel right now.

For Jesus followers, hard times are when you actually put into action what you believe. The way you approach your life determines what you believe about your God. So the way you live your life is a direct reflection of what you think about your God, and I’m going to tell you this today, Jesus says, there’s a full life for you. There’s a full life and you got to keep going. Jesus also says there’s a thief – a sneaky little thief – out there. And this thief has a motive. And the season of life you’re in right now, you may be saying, “I can’t believe this is real life.” But I’m telling you, you can be a better version of you at the end of this. But I’m gonna be honest again, a better version of you, is only found when you become a better reflection of Jesus.

So how do we do that? How do we become a better reflection of Jesus? I actually think it’s the attacks of the thief that can help us make choices to become better reflections of Jesus. See the thief steals from you. Jesus reveals Himself to you

You can find Jesus in this season. I mean, you can find him. He is there; you can find Jesus. Notice how Jesus says the thief has a three step plan to get to you. But Jesus says, “hey, there’s just there’s one path, there’s one path to get to me. And it’s not complicated.” The thief steals from you, and as I’m going to ask you this question, what in your life is being stolen from you? What do you feel like is being stolen from you right now? Is anxiety stealing from you? Is anxiety stealing peace? Stealing time because you’re consumed in worry. Is it stealing productivity? Because you feel like you’re stuck where you are. Maybe it’s depression, and the thief is stealing your joy. Maybe it’s anger, and now you’re snapping off on people too fast because you’re stressed and you’re worried. Maybe the thief is stealing your self control, is stealing your gentleness, is stealing relationships. Maybe the thief is stealing motivation and you just find yourself having a lack of motivation. You’re sleeping in way too late. You’re not being productive with your time you’re not being disciplined with what you eat or drink.

The thief has come to steal from you in this season. But Jesus reveals Himself to you in this season. Where there is anxiety, the apostle Paul says this, “be anxious for nothing.” Philippians 4:6 says this, “Do not be anxious about anything. But in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Now this is a an amazing verse, but I want to be clear about something here. Paul is not dismissing your feelings of anxiety. He’s not dismissing those feelings. They are real. Notice something else here. Paul does not say, don’t be anxious, and present your requests to God, and then God is going to give you everything that you request of him, so just don’t be anxious. He’s not saying God’s some kind of genie. That’s not true. You may have gotten laid off. You may can’t work right now and you’ve prayed about it. That does not mean God is going to make your job reappear. And we’re in a world crisis. This is a real issue that we’re going through right now.

This is what I want you to get. Where the thief will steal externally, God will reveal Himself to you internally if you allow it. If you allow him to, God will begin to teach you something in your heart. I truly believe that God is far more interested in the conditions of our heart than the things going on around us. The peace of God, which transcends or surpasses our understanding will guard your heart and your mind, do I want you to do something for me. I want you to do something. I want you to start making the devil mad, I’m gonna get old school preacher on you right now. I want you to start making the devil mad. See, the enemy is gonna try to steal your joy in this season, the enemy is gonna try to steal your peace in this in this season. The enemy’s gonna try to get up in your household and try to take over your house. The enemy is going to try to make you anxious. The enemy’s gonna try to make you depressed, the enemy’s gonna try to make you feel defeated. But in this season, you got to stand up and say, I’m gonna be more like Jesus in this season. This season you’ve got to say I’m gonna trust God even when I don’t understand what’s going on around me. If I have time to be anxious, guess what, I’ve got time to pray about it. If I got time to be depressed, I have time to be productive in a hobby. If I got time to waste time, on lack of motivation, I have time to get me a new motivation and take on life and I’m going to make the devil mad at my house today. Friends, I want you to know today that God is for you, that he’s with you, and in this season, you can become a better reflection of Jesus. I’m gonna grab that camera right now and start preaching to somebody up in here.

If you’re if I’m stuck in the house, if I’m stuck in the house, you better go to beachbody.com and download that 14 day free subscription and you get that Sean T body that he promised us you’re going to get. Or are you going to stay stuck in the house eating Doritos all day. Maybe I’m preaching to myself right now, but I’m going to tell you this, with each squat that you do when you’re going to get that body because you’re gonna get your heart right, you’re gonna get your mind right, you make the devil pay for it. See the enemy wants to come and steal from you. Jesus reveals Himself to you.

Then the second thing is the thief kills. But Jesus draws near. So I always thought it was interesting the way the enemy works. First he’ll to try to steal from you because if he can get close enough to you, he’ll just try to kill you. He’ll just try to take you down. When Jesus told the parable about the farmer and the seeds, the disciples didn’t understand what he meant when he said the seed fell on the road and the birds killed it. Seed fell on the gravel sprouted up but then a storm came and the storm killed it. Seed fell on the weeds and the weeds killed it. Jesus explained the parable later on in Matthew 13, starting verse 18. Again, in the Message it says, Jesus says this, “study this story, the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on a surface. And so the evil one comes along and plucks it right out of the person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scattered on the road. The seed cast in the gravel, this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm, but there is no soil of character. So when the emotions wear off, some difficulty arrives, there’s nothing to show for it. And the seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but the weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes from it.” See friends, there’s an enemy who wants to kill your hope and your dreams. But now is the time to dig deeper into the heart of God.

Jesus continues and says “the seed cast on the good earth is the person who hears and takes in the news and then produces a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.” Jesus says with the craziness of life, you can still be planted in the Word of God, in the presence of God and produce a harvest beyond your wildest dreams. Don’t let the enemy convince you that you need to be strangled. Don’t let the enemy convince you that you’ve got to pause your life. But Jesus says you can still be planted and flourish even in this.

I want to be practical here. This is what we see. The first three seeds are easy to do. Seed one, you’re just hearing but not applying. It’s easy to do that. Seed two: when the storms come, it’s easy to give up. Seed three: it’s easy to worry about the things going on and not trust God. But it takes someone with some grit. It takes someone with some courage, someone with some gumption to do seed four, and seed four is to grow even in this. Even in this season, I’m going to grow. Even in this condition, I’m going to grow. Even in this I’m going to become a better version of me by becoming a better reflection of Jesus.

We as a church want to get in your corner, so this week, we’re kicking off online small groups again. You need to get yourself in a group. Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t know how to use zoom and all that stuff. That’s fine. You can literally join a group and just listen. You could join a group and just sit in and listen you have no pressure to talk. You can join a group and you can talk your mouth off, but the leader may tell you to stop. But we want you in a group. You need to be around community. One of the things that will help you to not let the enemy get too close to you is if you have a good group of people around you who are supporting you.

We’ll have fun groups, some hanging out and watching Netflix, we have a short group that’s just for moms, we’re going to start a group for women. We have a group called pub theology where it’s a safe place to learn about God and just have a have a nice drink with someone you know. And then we have a group that highlights our Bible reading plan. We want you to get in group.

Another thing we’re going to do is I’m going to start a four week group that will be meeting on Monday nights called best life possible. And it starts this Monday. And in this group, what we’re going to do is I want to show you how to write devotionals, how to read the Bible for all it’s worth, and how to have an experience with the Holy Spirit daily. That’s what I want to do in this group. I want to give you next steps so you can experience all that God has for you in your life right now. See, the enemy wants to kill but Jesus drwas near.

The last thing, I’m going to end with this. The thief destroys but Jesus rewards – surprise yourself in this. See the enemy wants to kill, but he doesn’t stop there. He wants to completely destroy you. And what does that mean? The enemy wants to destroy your legacy. If the enemy can steal from you, kill your dreams, he can destroy your eternal impact. You have to become a better version of you not just for yourself but for your legacy, for the future generations. Jesus rewards you. He will reward your faith in this season. He will reward your obedience in this season, he will reward your trust in Him in this season. Surprise yourself in this season, pick up a new hobby that you didn’t think that you could do. Start working out, get healthy, so you can live a long life. Start having family nights, start having some date nights with your spouse and let’s get some Corona babies happening. This is what I want you to do at this time. I want you to declare I’m gonna live life and life to the full. Pray with me.

God, we thank you. We thank you for your faithfulness, even in this season. We thank You for Your goodness, even in this. And God right now I pray for the people who are just struggling. They’re having a hard time. God I pray that you would bring peace and joy and laughter in their lives. God I pray for the people who the thief has tried to come and steal purpose, steal dreams. The thief has tried to come and kill the family dynamic, kill hope, and destroy legacy. God I pray that you will provide protection and hope for people and that people will choose you. Even as I was talking I feel like there are people who are dealing with so much anxiety, they don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. But God your word says, You take care of the birds, you take care of the flowers. Your Word says, How much more will I take care of my children? See, God is for you.

And then God, I pray for a new perspective in this season, not a perspective that we’re down and we’re out. We have victory in you.

Maybe you’re watching today and you never made a decision to trust Jesus with your life. But you’re hearing me talking. You say, I want that relationship. I want a relationship with Jesus and maybe you have before but things has gotten in the way and you want to recommit your life back to Jesus. Wherever you are. I want you to repeat this prayer with me. I want you to say, Jesus, forgive me for my mistakes. Make me new. Today, I trust you with my life. Today, I follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thanks for checking out the City Lights Podcast. If you’d like to partner with us financially, you can go to wearecitylights.com/give or you can text any dollar amount to 84321. Thanks for joining us today.