Brace Yourself

It happens each year. As some of you know, I read through the Bible each year, interacting with Him prayerfully along the way (most of the time!). I do a psalm each day until I’ve gone through all 150. After a couple months in, I’ll see it looming: Psalm 119. If you’re not familiar with it, Psalm 119 is the longest “chapter” in the Bible – 176 verses. Usually a psalm will take me 1 minute to get through, maybe 5 for a long one, but Psalm 119 … settle in.

Settling in really is the key. If you’re in a hurry, it’s tortuous, but if you can give it some time, it’s incredibly rich. I made the right choice yesterday – and I was rewarded. Two verses were subjected to my pink highlighter yesterday.

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! – Psalm 119.32 (ESV)

We don’t have the capacity to live the life God wants us to live until He changes our hearts. When we learn to love Him with all that we are and others as ourselves (Matthew 22.37-39), running in the way of His commandments will be second nature. But this isn’t something that just happens. We don’t get zapped with this ability to love God and neighbor with a new power.

It starts when God gives us a new heart (2 Corinthians 5.17), but we also commit ourselves to a course of growing in this new life. Much of this journey is learning to deny ourselves (Matthew 16.24) and place ourselves before God to let Him shape us. There are many exercises we can commit to, but the most basic are prayer and engaging the Scriptures. Let’s look at Psalm 119 again

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. – Psalm 119.11 (ESV)

So how do we store up God’s Word in our hearts? Neither you or I have the time for that on a Saturday, but how about I give a few ideas to get us thinking in that direction, at least.

Obviously, we can have a personal devotional time in the Scriptures. I read awhile back that a daily, reflective time in the Bible is the single greatest indicator of someone growing spiritually. I want to encourage you to get in the Word each day. If you’re not sure how to do that, let’s talk. It would be my pleasure to walk you through a simple method of daily Bible study. Also, if you go through our next Rooted group in the fall, it will help you build some basic Bible reading skills. Incidentally, I was also listening to a podcast yesterday and they highlighted a daily audio devotional. They cover a chapter per day and they’re 5-10 minutes long. I shouldn’t recommend it until I’ve listened to it, but the founder sounded like a really solid guy. Check it out and let me know if it’s any good.

The next thing we can do to store the Bible up in our hearts is to memorize it. If you’re like me, you’re not disciplined enough to do this consistently on your own. That’s why it’s important to be in a Life Group. Most are taking a break for the summer, but resolve to get in one in the fall. Our fall campaign as well as Rooted each have a weekly Bible verse for memorization.

Finally, we proclaim God’s Word each Sunday morning. I can’t wait for tomorrow. We’re covering one of the most liberating and empowering passages in the Bible – Romans 8.31-39. If we can get the truths of this passage from our heads to our hearts, there will be no stopping us.

If you’re willing to take up this challenge to get in the Word, brace yourself. God’s going to do some amazing work in and through you.

See you in the morning,

Pastor Justin



  • Annual Celebration is next Sunday! After our services next week we’ll be meeting with all the other campuses to celebrate what God has done over the last year with a wonderful carnival at Grace Christian School (4545 Myra Ave, Cypress, CA 90630).
  • Father’s Day is June 21. Come for breakfast at 9:00. We’ll also have a car show. If you have an antique, or even interesting car, let us know and we’ll keep a place for you.
  • We’d like to have a baptism soon. If you want to take this step of faith, please fill out a Connection Card indicating so on Sunday morning or email me.


It’s Memorial Day Weekend. It’s a beautiful weekend. Monday’s off, the kids’ activities are winding to a close, resulting in a little margin for our lives, and the school load is starting to lighten as well. Advertisers use this weekend, too. Pandora’s trying to get me to upgrade to commercial-free so I can kick back on this lazy weekend. They won’t get me that easy!

But in the midst of all these wonderful things – and they are wonderful – it’s easy to forget about what Memorial Day is all about. I have a friend, a veteran of the Navy, mention on his facebook that there’s no need to thank him for his service on Sunday. While he appreciates the sentiment, the time for that is Veteran’s Day.

Memorial Day is the day to remember those who have died in the service of our country. We too often take our way of life for granted. But the cost was high. Thousands upon thousands have died for the freedom of our nation – and for the freedom of other nations. The cost could not have been higher. The reward is amazing – even if we do take it for granted at times.

But as wonderful as this gift is, it is not the greatest gift ever given. But, if we’re looking, it will point us to that greatest gift – Jesus who died and rose again that we could not just have freedom in this life, but eternal freedom and joy in Him. Last week we touched on this passage from Colossians:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. – Colossians 2.13-15

Our enemies have been defeated by Jesus on the cross. And not only are we given life in Him, but Jesus’ glory is so astounding that all creation will find its place under His Lordship.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1.15-20

Pastor Brett’s going to lead us in delighting in His Lordship tomorrow morning. I hope to see you there!

And after church, thank God for those soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others all around the world. And let that be a reminder that Jesus has died for your freedom and that of your brothers and sisters all over the world.

See you in the morning,

Pastor Justin



  • Annual Celebration is coming. After our June 7 services we’ll be meeting with all the other campuses to celebrate what God has done over the last year with a wonderful carnival at Grace Christian School in Cypress.
  • Father’s Day is June 21. Come for breakfast at 9:00. We’ll also have a car show. If you have an antique, or even interesting car, let us know and we’ll keep a place for you.
  • We’d like to have a baptism soon. If you want to take this step of faith, please fill out a Connection Card indicating so on Sunday morning or email me.

Victory Awaits

You thought I forgot, didn’t you? I know you’ve been lost without the weekly email this week, but here it comes … and it’s purposely on Saturday. We’re trying something new this week to help prepare us for Sundays on Saturday evenings. We’ll see how it goes. Your input is appreciated.

I can’t believe it’s not yet been a week since Mother’s Day. I hope yours was a good one. As we transition to this Sunday, we’re continuing our series, Revived by Resurrection. Tomorrow our theme is “Victory.” We love winning. I just won a thrilling bocce ball game. Victory was sweet J. Perhaps a little sweeter even for Preakness Stakes winner, American Pharaoh. The stakes were a bit higher.

But victory takes even more significance when we’re talking about real life. And if we’re honest, we’re all dealt disappointments and heartbreak. It could be personal defeat, it could be the tragedy we see all around us. Sometimes the burden of life’s defeats are overwhelming.

Where do you need victory in your life now?

What difference does Jesus make in the trials of our life? What does the resurrection have to do with it?

Tomorrow we’ll look at Jesus’ Victory at the cross and resurrection and the difference it makes in our lives – in the present, and what it guarantees us for the future.

Victory Awaits!

See you in the morning,

Pastor Justin


  • We’d like to have a baptism soon. If you want to take this step of faith, please fill out a Connection Card indicating so on Sunday morning or email me.

Love Your Neighbor

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Or should I say, “¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!” It’s quite a week. Some of you may have missed yesterday’s holiday as well – Star Wars Day.

[Disclaimer: Before I get into my story, let me confess something. God’s doing something in me and I need to share it because I think He wants to do it in our congregation. Some of us already have “it,” but others of us need to grow in what I’m talking about. I know I do. I’m miserable at it, but God’s been growing me in it lately and I feel like I should share my process with y’all. And if the Branch is going to flourish, we all need to grow in this. What is it?]

Loving our neighbors.

Our neighbors have a couple dogs named after Star Wars characters. I’ll let you guess which two. Anyways, we were having our regularly rushed evening last night. I’m trying to get my daughters home in time for dinner, but something I read today made me stop at the pet store, endure my girls’ appeals for a puppy, and pick up a treat for the neighbors’ pooches to celebrate this most important holiday – “May the Fourth be with you!” Get it? Punny, eh?

I’m always working on a book that I might help me move forward as a pastor and/or us as a congregation move forward in the mission God has given us. Next on my list was Life-Style Evangelism by Joe Aldrich. I’ve heard it’s a classic, but the world has changed since it was written. Ronald Regan had just started his first term. We’re talking about a different world. I wondered if it was worth the time or if I should get something a little more “cutting edge.” I’m sure I should, but I decided to give it a chance. It hooked me out of the gate.

I’ll have my antennae out to avoid those things that are out of date, but when he listed the barriers to evangelism in our world, it couldn’t be more timely. Specifically, the author notes that we are overwhelmed with people contact – there’s no way we can care for every need that crosses our path. We’re too busy to really invest in relationships, to care. There were a couple more, but these jumped off the page at me.

I don’t know about you, but these were direct hits on me. The images of suffering around the world have numbed me, I’m sad to say, to a certain degree. And my schedule is absurd at times. But Aldrich’s response isn’t to give up. I’m not sure what his response is yet, but I suppose his book’s title is a good indicator.

We have a hope worth sharing. Aldrich was discovering 35 years ago what is perhaps even more true today. People don’t want to be projects, they don’t want to be preached at, they don’t want to be some spiritual checklist. They want to be loved. They want to be cared for. They want to be genuine friends.

Friendship takes time. It doesn’t fit tidily into a schedule. It’s living life and caring for those God brings across our path – wherever they are, or end up, in life.

So we went to the pet store and delivered our Star Wars Day gift. It took a little bit of time, a little bit of effort, but maybe it will be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Forget the force, the Spirit is with us. Let’s love our neighbors.


  • Mother’s Day is coming on Sunday! You’re welcome. Get to work.
  • We have a fun element in our service on Sunday. We’ll have flowers available to give to the ladies in our lives who have played a motherly role. So be thinking about which ladies of the Branch who have blessed you in some way. We’ll have a flower available for you to give them as an encouragement and a small toke of gratitude.
  • We’d like to do a baptism service soon. If you’re interested, please fill out a Connection Card on Sunday.