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“New Eyes for New Hearts” was the theme of the service at Christian Church of Lemon Grove. On the stage, four tall boxes wrapped to look like presents made splashes of bright color in the mostly gray room and heralded the church’s new motto: “Commit [to Jesus], Connect [with His church], Learn [to grow], Give [back what He’s given].”

A little ways into the service, the band slowed from their wind-and-brass groove and got slow and sentimental: “Open our eyes Lord/ We want to see Jesus/ To reach out and touch Him/ And say that we love Him...”

Before Communion, a speaker meditated upon that desire and that sight. “We were created in His image, but sometimes we

don’t understand all the ramifications of that.” One such ramification: “We should think and act like God. He’s a God of loving relationships.... He and Christ and the Holy Spirit have always coexisted. I believe God wants us to have a similar lifestyle” — a loving relationship with Him, with our families, and with our church. “If it’s all about God, these relationships will glorify Him.... To be in this designed relationship with all these different groups requires us to be in obedience to His commands.... I challenge each of us to study God’s word, to learn the rules of living the life we were designed to live...and focus on the love of God.”

During the sermon, Pastor Skates pointed out another way to learn those rules — by putting on Christ. “Jesus wants to work on all of us, so we can have His vision. The vision to see reality, to see the truth in the midst of the lies that we’re surrounded by in this world.” (Earlier, he had mentioned the importance of defining marriage as “one man and one woman.”)

The choir sang: “Be thou my vision... Be thou my best thought.”

But more than intellectual sight, Skates dwelt upon seeing others through Jesus’ lens of compassion. He talked about “spiritual myopia, where we see only what’s up close — ‘It’s all about me!’ Spiritual lazy eye, where we see the problem but we don’t do anything. And spiritual dry eye, where we see the problem and it doesn’t break our heart. We lack compassion.” And compassion, said Skates, was Jesus’ hallmark — so much so that He is the only actual person to whom it is applied in the New Testament. “It’s the strongest word they had in the original Greek to describe being deeply moved.” Skates ran through several examples of Jesus’ compassion — toward the sick, the confused, the blind, the demon-possessed, the hungry, the grieving, and even the sinful. (“Her many sins have been forgiven,” He said of the woman who washed His feet with her tears, “for she loved much.”)

To help gain this compassionate sight, the church had scheduled a Faith in Action Sunday for October 12. Children’s Sunday school would be held at a park, where others might see and hear. A cleanup project was scheduled at the home of a single mother. More cleanup at a restaurant that trained homeless teens. Visits to shut-ins. And outreach to prisoners through the Kairos ministry. “Is there anyone here who cannot pray?” asked the organizer. No one raised a hand. “Right. So pray for us. We have specific dates to let you know the time to stop and pray for us. Prayer is very important for this program. But so are the letters, so are the cookies, so is the prayer chain.... Last year, this church sent more Agape love stuff — the letters, the cookies, the prayer chains — than any of the other churches. This makes a difference to these prisoners. Kairos has a better than 50 percent success rate of turning these guys’ hearts around and bringing them to the love of the Lord. Guys in the prison system know that Kairos makes a difference because Jesus makes a difference.”

Before the collection, a congregant offered this prayer: “As we go into our pockets...we are doing a powerful thing. You are paving the way for us as we do this to further Your great kingdom. I just pray that You use us, use the money we give You, in any capacity You can.”

At the end of the service, the choir sang: “May our homes be filled with dancing/ May our streets be filled with joy/ May injustice bow to Jesus/ And the people turn to pray.”

What happens when we die?

“I think that in this life, we’re choosing where we want to spend eternity,” said Skates. “God votes for us and Satan votes against us, and we cast the deciding vote. To die is to be present with the Lord; He wants us to be with Him, but He’s not going to force us to be with Him.”

Christian Church of Lemon Grove
Denomination: Independent Christian Churches
Address: 6970 San Miguel Ave, Lemon Grove, 619-465-1888
Founded locally: 1963
Senior pastor: David Skates
Congregation size: about 300
Staff size: 6, including part-time
Sunday school enrollment: 112, including adults
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: young adult program
Dress: casual to semiformal
Diversity: majority Caucasian, also Hispanic and African American
Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Website: cclg.org

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