message archive

Audio recordings of messages from Sunday and some Tuesday Recovery Gatherings are archived here for downloading or streaming. You can browse current year messages below from most recent to oldest, or select a category for specific years or one of our “boxed sets,” message series on specific topics.

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A Functional Heretic

Dave Brisbin | 7.30.17
How could an abundance of emphasis on the absolute love of God be a problem? What could go wrong? It is one of the ironies of my life and chosen profession that my absolute focus on the absolute nature of God’s love has placed me at odds with many of my Christian contemporaries, and though this over simplifies the nature of any controversy, it at least accurately expresses my intentions and the method in my “heresy.” At a recent gathering, in the midst of an energetic discussion, one man called me a “functional heretic,” a term I just loved and enthusiastically accepted. I knew what he meant: that I was someone pushing the envelope just short of too far to remain functioning within Christendom, remaining true to Jesus and his message even if expressed in radically different ways. But the reason I loved and accepted the term is because I believe it absolutely applies to Jesus as well. 

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Jesus never stopped being perfectly functional within Judaism, but in his attempt to cut through accepted doctrine and beliefs that had come to burden and separate the people from their God, he pushed the envelope as far as he could—eventually too far for the authorities to permit. And if we’re ever to understand and experience the freedom of Kingdom that Jesus was teaching and living, we’ll need to become functional heretics too, unafraid of the opinions of others and the disturbance of pushing the envelope just short of too far…

Such as These

Dave Brisbin | 7.23.17
If God is a playful God—as mirrored by Jesus who loved to play with children, tell colorful and funny stories, eat and drink with his friends—how are we to react and respond? How does this notion that God doesn’t live life as a duty to perform but a playground to be experienced change the shape of our journeys? Why is playfulness so important? Think on it: to be in a playful mood and mode is to be tender and open…to be vulnerable. It’s a place of the surrender of control, a suspension of disbelief and reason and defense. It’s far too frightening a place for many of us to go, who don’t feel safe enough to be playful. 

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The arch enemy of playfulness is control, and control is always the foot soldier of fear. We can’t be playful, childlike until we know that we are loved. This is the essence of the Good News: that we are loved enough that being playful is not only possible, but the only possible response…which is why the emblem of Kingdom, the living out of God’s playful love, the proof of that love is always “such as these,” those who, like children, are free to live and love playfully.

A Playful God

Dave Brisbin | 7.16.17
On the 15th anniversary of my ordination, I took a look back at the subject of my first sermon on ordination day all those years ago: The Gospel According to Lou. A beloved friend who died from complications arising from diabetes two weeks before my ordination, Lou’s last words to me and my wife fueled a fundamental change in me and my first sermon that I thought I already had in the bag… “Love each other, just love each other…and kid around a little.” Twelve words. But it was the kidding around part that characterized Lou, who’s playful smile always made me feel I was the only person in a crowded room. It was his playfulness that made all of us aware that Lou actually enjoyed the love he expressed for everyone in his path. 

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And it was his playfulness that finally broke through a theological view of God by showing me the playfulness of Jesus hiding in plain sight in the words of the New Testament. To see Jesus as a laughing, smiling, energetic man playfully living his relationships began redefining my understanding of God’s relationship with me and mine with everyone in my path. I wanted to become someone like Jesus, like Lou, who loved being in love and could state the Gospel with authority in only twelve words.

Be Ye Healed

Dave Brisbin | 7.9.17
What about faith healing? What is it? How does it work? Does it work? Is it biblical? Questions such as these are always present. They are born out of a deep human need for healing and wholeness—and out of the pain, trauma, and fear life presents. People in pain can be most easily manipulated so we need to be wary, yet Jesus healed many of the people around him…aren’t those gifts still in operation? How do we know how to proceed? 

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Although Jesus tells us he came to bring good news to those who have been marginalized, freedom to those who are captive and oppressed, and healing to those in need, he also shows us that kingdom—his word for abundant, healed, liberated life—is a process of becoming that he calls the Way. Is healing an event or a process or both and how do we balance our desire to change our circumstances with learning to be content in all our circumstances? Let’s talk about healing and faith and see if we can find the Way through together.

Unalienable Rights

Dave Brisbin | 7.2.17
Fourth of July should be a time to reassess, take stock of the last 241 years, see where we are, where we came from. We live in an age of cynicism. Our culture doesn’t revere tradition or founding principles anymore, but does that mean there’s no truth, no relevance there to guide us herenow? When we carefully read a document like the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson is telling us that human rights derive directly from God–but not political contracts or laws. Laws only exist to serve the people, and when they don’t, it is the right of the people to abolish them…yet people will suffer oppression and evil as long as they possibly can before finally acting—partly out of fear and partly out of prudence. Revolutions should never be taken lightly, and what operates in nations and governments is reflected in our personal lives. 

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Jesus is calling us to a personal revolution, one that will question and upend all of the intellectual concepts and religious contracts to which we’ve signed, if they no longer serve the purpose of spiritual liberation. And we will resist such upheaval for as long as we can until the day we realize that our desire for those God-given “unalienable rights,” is finally greater than our fear of the disruption of our interior revolution.

Looking for Love

Frank Billman | 6.25.17
Lessons from the Ortega Highway: In my early years in the faith I felt a bit of disdain for the “love gospel” that seemed to be infiltrating the faith community–particularly in California. That just seemed too easy and didn’t demand enough of the followers of Jesus. Today we will take a look at scripture and see if that is what Jesus was actually teaching and, if so, how does it present itself in real life. (As in the daily commute on the mountain road Ortega Highway!)

From Ab to Abba

Dave Brisbin | 6.18.17
On Fathers’ Day—Is our Father in heaven male? We call him Father after all…and “him.” Intellectually, most of us know God is spirit and neither male nor female, but emotionally, subconsciously, the feelings, the consequence of maleness surrounds our Western notion of God. To have been immersed in a male conception of God keeps him at a distance—the king, judge, executioner, administrator, creator/builder, lawgiver and standard bearer. We talk of the female attributes of our God: compassion, mercy, intimacy, love—but we really order our lives of faith and religion around the king, not the queen, Father, not Mother. Jesus had an ingenious way of dealing with this dilemma: while his people called God their Ab, Hebrew for father, he called his Father, Abba, the familiar, intimate name that Hebrew children use for their daddies to this day. 

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Without contesting the tradition of his people, Jesus brought into the relationship the sense of intimacy and compassion missing from a culturally male conception of God. There is a journey implied here, a journey Jesus took as preserved in the New Testament, a journey from Ab to Abba from father to mother, king to confidant, that we must all take if we really want to go where Jesus went.

Falling Opinions

Dave Brisbin | 6.11.17
One of the hardest aspects of working in a church setting is watching people come and go—people you like, those you thought of as friends move on and leave you often feeling hurt or abandoned. Natural to feel that way—hard to make the emotional distinction between friendship and ministry. But what is really hurting us? Really, it’s our expectation, our opinion of how things should be. Any community is in constant motion—never static. Any community as we view it is just a momentary snapshot in time that will be morphing into something else in the next moment.

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To be able to live richly in any community or family or workplace is to expect what is real and not what we wish to be so. As Sengtzu famously said: If you wish to see the truth, hold no opinions for or against. It’s the same message Jesus is giving us when he tells us not to judge. Judging is another way of trying to impose our opinions. If we’re ever to enter the quality of life that is Kingdom, it will only be when we let fall our opinions and let our moments be what they really are
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10th Anniversary Celebration

theeffect | 6.4.17
As theeffect hit its 10th anniversary as a ministry on May 20, 2017, we take a pause as a community to let our staff and founders each take a few minutes to talk about theeffect and its effect on our lives and the lives of those we serve. How did we begin, who began us, what was it like in the early days and years, how did we grow, and how did each of us come to connect with this community and this message of Jesus’ Way and Father’s love? It was a morning of memories, revelations, tears, and laughter.

Shrewd as Snakes

Dave Brisbin | 5.28.17
The theme of balance in kingdom life continues as we consider a very strange saying of Jesus: to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. In sending his followers out to teach and heal, what is he trying to tell them and by extension, us? To balance “shrewd,” as intelligent, thoughtful, discreet, practical, and cautious with “innocence,” characterized as simple, sincere, straightforward, without deceit is a difficult mix that seems to be in basic contradiction at first glance. But as with all of Jesus’ instructions, it’s not only possible, but necessary, of course. 

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And this balance must extend to the fundamental ways we look at life and faith, religion, and even scripture itself. When we apply Jesus’ balance to a view of the teachings of Paul and Jesus, what does it reveal? How does it change the way we look at the message being delivered? And how does it change how we apply those teachings to the everyday issues we face here and now? To balance a simple and straightforward approach to faith with the intelligence, practicality, and discretion of the snake can make all the difference, and give us permission to view the fundamentals of our faith in different ways.

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Everyone is recovering from something… Admitting this is the first step in spiritual life, because any unfinished business in our lives–trauma, unforgiveness, fear-based perceptions–fosters compulsive behavior and keeps us from connecting spiritually and emotionally.

Since we’re all recovering, we accept everyone right as they are—no expiration dates or deadlines. We don’t tell anyone what to believe or do. We present points of view that we hope will engage seekers in their own journey; help them unlearn limiting perceptions, beliefs, and compulsions; give opportunities to get involved in community, building the trust we all need to find real identity, meaning, and purpose. In other words, to engage the transforming Way of living life that Jesus called Kingdom…non-religiously understood from a first century Hebrew point of view.

 

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Embedded in the fun and laughter of each of our gatherings and events is the connection and accountability as well as the structure, discipline, and opportunity for service that authentic community is all about. We help create programs for physical support, emotional recovery, and spiritual formation that can meet any person’s needs. Such programs work at two levels: first to address a person’s physical and emotional stability—clinical, financial, relational,professional—anything that distracts from working on the second level: true spiritual formation centered around the contemplative way of life defined by an original Hebrew understanding of the message of Jesus.

Rather than telling people what to believe or think, we model and encourage engagement in a personal and communal spiritual journey that allows people to experience their own worthiness of connection and acceptance, to find the freedom from underlying fears that brings real meaning and purpose into focus.

 

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Seeing ourselves as a learning and recovery community that worships together, the focus isn’t on Sunday morning alone, but on every day of the week as we gather for worship, healing and support workshops, studies, 12 step meetings, counseling and mentoring sessions, referral services, and social events. We maintain a food pantry for those needing more support, a recovery worship gathering, and child care for those with little ones.

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