Invocation for Irvine City Council Meeting

September 24th, 2014

Irvine City CouncilI had the honor and privilege of giving the invocation for one of Irvine’s City Council meetings. What is an invocation you ask? I had to look it up myself. It’s basically an opening prayer. I accepted the city’s invitation mainly because it supports one of the values of New Life: to be a church for the city. We want to be a church that doesn’t just use Irvine as a place for worship but blesses Irvine as a place to serve.

Below is the transcript of the prayer that I gave. Please note that the city has strict guidelines as to what can or cannot be said in an invocation. Mainly, no favoritism can be shown to any one religion. This rules out using names like “Jesus” or “Father in heaven.”

Dear Almighty God,

We begin this meeting with prayer because we recognize our great need and dependence upon you. We pray because you are God, and we are not. We humbly acknowledge that even the best humans are still humans at best. With humility, we confess that we lack wisdom. We confess we could use more compassion. We confess that many times we lack courage. That is why we pray. We pray that you would do for us, what we cannot do for ourselves.

We pray that you would grant us wisdom so that the decisions made would best serve the citizens of this great city. We pray for compassion so that our decisions would protect those who cannot protect themselves. We pray for courage so that our decisions would be based on what is noble and right rather than what is popular and easy.

We ask that you would help us to see ourselves as servants–servants of this city, servants of your people, and servants of you, oh God. May that be reflected in our proceedings this day. Amen.

 


New Life Irvine Basketball Camp

July 18th, 2012

It has certainly been a long time since I’ve last posted. The reason for the delay is that we are currently in process of updating our web-site, particularly this blog-site. In the mean-time, I’d like to promote one of the many ways our church is trying to connect with the community. We discovered that one of our children’s ministry teachers is a very gifted and talented basketball player/coach. We thought we’d take advantage of him (in a good way) and host a free basketball camp for kids in our community. If you or someone you know may be interested in this free event, please e-mail me at jeff@newlifeirvine.org.

 



Building Bridges

January 25th, 2012

This coming Sunday, January 29th, marks our church’s Public Opening Service. After several months of   worshipping on our own, we are finally going “live” and opening our doors to our non-believing friends. In many ways this Sunday marks the culmination of all our labors and prayers up until this point. Our ultimate goal from day one was to be a church for the unchurched (estimated anywhere between 175,000-200,000 people in Irvine).

How are we going to accomplish this? We liken evangelism to that of building a bridge. Bridges aren’t erected over-night. Rather, they require sustained effort, energy, and time. As a result, we see evangelism as a long term relationship more than an event. To quote John Maxwell, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Before someone will listen to the Gospel, you must first earn a right to speak. They say that a typical conversion today takes about two years of bridge-building before a profession of faith is made. That’s a lot of meals and conversations.

Such an approach, however, has not been easy for me. No, not because of what I discovered about my non-believing friends, but because of what I discovered about me. I have met people who are far kinder, nicer, and more loving than me. I think of my former neighbor (who has since moved) who was genuinely one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He was the neighbor everyone wished they had. He trimmed my palm trees, fixed my sprinklers, grilled me steak, and played with our kids. I sure do miss him! I think of my Peruvian friend who throughout high-school flew up to the United States to work odd jobs every summer vacation so that he can financially support his family back home. While I spent my high school summers hanging out with friends, spending my parent’s money, he was working hard in a foreign country, providing his parents with money. I think of my agnostic friend who spends hours every week volunteering at animal shelters and homeless shelters all in the name of good will. What do I do with my free time? I tend to spend it on me. I quickly realized that my non-believing friends love their neighbors, their families, and their city far more than me. Such realizations have caused me to question myself and what I hope to accomplish. Who am I and what do I have to offer?

In the midst of my doubts, the Lord gently reminds me of the goal of evangelism. The goal of bridge-building is to lead others to Jesus, not me. If the bridge leads to me, then there’s no hope and there’s no point. They’re better off without me. Praise God, however, that the goal of evangelism is to lead people to Christ. What will save my friends is not my life, my obedience, and my faithfulness, but His life, His obedience, and His faithfulness. Praise God that the Gospel I have been sent to proclaim is not the Gospel of Jeff Suhr, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ alone has the beauty and the power to captivate sinners and raise them from the dead.

Having this Gospel-centered perspective liberates and frees me to be bold and steadfast in my evangelism and preaching. It frees me from paralyzing self-absorption because I know that the power of salvation is not found in the messenger but the message. Despite all my failings and weaknesses, I will continue to stand behind the pulpit every Sunday. I will continue to build bridges with my non-believing friends because I am convinced that the power of God to save is found in Jesus. That is what I hope our guests will see this Sunday. That is my prayer every Sunday, that all those who come will witness nothing but Christ and Him crucified.