Galatians 1:6-9


6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Bible study tip >>> Look for repeated words and phrases.  Go back and look for all the times “gospel” appears in this passage.

Paul is defending the true gospel — the good news that salvation by grace alone and by Christ alone is available for all.  Other teachers have come to Galatia and added works to the gospel, and Paul is furious!

Look at the following verses about the good news that salvation is for all people.

Luke 2:10-11 >>>  But the angel said to [the shepherd], “Do not be afraid.  I bring you GOOD NEWS of great joy that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Galatians 3:8 >>> The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced THE GOSPEL in advance to Abraham:  “ALL NATIONS will be blessed through you.”

The Gospel is the good news that all peoples of the earth might be saved by the grace of God by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.

We can’t earn it.
We don’t deserve it.
We simply have to receive it.

Here’s a few questions to think about:

The gospel is all about GRACE.  Paul is furious that others are trying to add to the requirements of how we can be reconciled to God.

Is there any area of your life where you are living to earn God’s approval instead of living by grace?

You already have God’s approval.  How would it feel to live in a state of grace instead of a race for approval?

The gospel is for ALL THE PEOPLE and ALL THE NATIONS.

Is there anyone you’ve given up on, thinking they’re outside the reach of God’s grace?  

How can you extend grace to all people you come in contact with today?


We can't earn it


Galatians 1:1-4



1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul has a unique emphasis in the opening of his letter to the church in Galatia.  In no other letter from Paul does he include this emphasis that he is sent from God and not from men.  This is a theme that will continue to develop in this first chapter.

(Want to dig deeper?  Look for this theme to repeat itself in 1:10-12 and 1: 15-16.  You can also compare this opening to Paul’s introductions in Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians and note how it is different.)

Now let’s take a closer look at verse 4:

[Jesus] gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.  

Take a look at what happens when you flip the order of this verse:

To rescue us from this present evil age, Jesus gave himself for our sins.

To rescue us from this present evil age, Jesus didn’t rescue us from our circumstances.  He rescued us from our sins.  You and I don’t need to be rescued from our circumstances. We need to be rescued from our sins!

Paul is not writing to offer a worldly solution.  He is writing to point people to the one true solution, the one true source of rescue, the one true way to find grace and peace in this present evil age:  Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins.

Here’s a few questions to think about:

What are some worldly solutions that other people have offered to try and make life better?

How does Jesus provide a rescue that is uniquely different than anything the world can offer?

What is an area of your life where you need to experience rescue from Jesus?

In verse 3, Paul writes, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  What is an area of your life where you need to experience the grace and peace that comes only from God?


Galatians 1 4

Social Media Guidelines

I recently decided to take a month off of social media.  It was one of the best decisions I made for that whole month.

Here’s the thing.  I really don’t know how to do social media “right.”  And by right, I don’t mean how to have my particular brand and get followers and post really cool things.  I mean, I don’t know how to do those things either.

But in this instance, when I talk about “right,” I’m talking about how to do social media in a way that feels healthy for my soul.  Maybe you’ve got a lock on this.  I really hope you do.

But maybe you're like me and you’re using social media but there’s a sneaking suspicion that it might be too much of a distraction or an addiction.  Or it might be feeding into a sense of narcissism.  Or it might be giving an eternal sense of FOMO.  Or it might be feeding into insecurities about why more people didn’t like and comment on that last post.  Or it might be causing jealousy and envy.

That’s a lot of ways social media can wreak havoc in my soul.

So I stepped back for a little bit.  In part just because I was in a season where I needed to create a little more quiet and a little more space for myself to process a lot of life that was happening.  But also in part because I wanted some time to think about what in the world I was even doing with social media, and what the real motives were behind why and what I chose to broadcast to the world.

I helped run a social media channel for a non-profit for a few years, and have a small role in helping with some of our social media channels for Saddleback Small Groups.  Basically, I’m nowhere near an expert, but I do know a few basics.  I know about the importance of building a “brand.”  Having a consistent voice/look/feel across channels so that followers know what kind of quality and content to expect and why they should follow you.

But I also kept wondering why I needed a brand.  I mean, I get it for a business or an organization or a ministry.  But why do I, Laura, need a brand or followers?  Why do I need to advertise my life?

Y’all, there were some major wrestling matches that happened with these questions.  And now as I slowly start picking back up social media, I can tell that I’m doing it pretty tentatively.  I actually miss the quiet and space it created in my soul when I took a break for a month.  I think I still have more questions than answers about how to do this in a way that is best for my soul.

But as with most things in life, avoiding it doesn’t actually bring resolution.  So I’m going to wrestle.  And I’m going to be oh-so-self-aware about what’s going on in my soul.  And I’m going to use it as a way to bring to the surface what’s really going on in my heart as I broadcast my life to the world.

As I move forward, I’ve given myself a few guidelines to help keep me on track.

Reasons NOT To Post

1.  To get more likes or more followers

I’m sure you’ve never done this, but there’s been times when I post things just because I think it will get a lot of “likes” or will help me attract more followers.  But…why is that a good thing?  Again, I’m only talking about the scope of an individual, not for an organization.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you want more followers?

Popularity?  Influence?  Ego?

As a follower of Jesus, I’m not called to make myself popular.  Getting 1,000 followers means NOTHING if the character of Christ is not being developed in my heart.  So I’m trying to avoid posting just because it’s something that is trending.

2. To impress you, make you think I'm cool, brag about my life, or pretend to lead a life different than I actually do

I’s a pretty normal human thing to dream about how our lives could be different.  It’s another thing to pretend and actually try and convince the world (and ourselves) that our lives are different than than they actually are.  There is a very real danger of falling in love with a fake life.

You are exactly who God made you to be.  He didn’t make a mistake when he made you the way he made you.  You are loved exactly as you are.  And if you spend all your time pretending to be someone different, you might never do the important work of self-awareness and growth that will help you reach the full potential of who God made you to be.

3. To entertain myself

Waiting in line at the store?  Why not post to Instagram?  Wait, what?

I’ve done this so many times.  And it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I wonder what it would look like if I used time when I’m bored to text something encouraging to a friend, read a few verses on my Bible app, or take a few minutes to pray for people.

Reasons it's OK to post

1.  Mark important moments in my life

I live far away from a lot of family and friends, and one of the greatest gifts of social media is keeping up with the Taekwondo tournament my niece participated in, or the new project my dad just completed in the backyard.  You better believe that when I ran a marathon this last year I posted about it, and it was so sweet to get to share and celebrate that moment with people far away.  Tell me when major events happen in your life, because I want to celebrate with you!

With this though, my hiatus from social media reinforced the value of not just posting but also calling or texting or setting up a coffee date to keep people updated on my life.  I went to a Dodger game during that month off, and while my friends were posting to social media I sent a picture to my dad and brother because they’re also big Dodger fans.  Not every moment has to be shared with the world; it might be better shared more personally.

2. Inspire other people

A surprising number of people have mentioned to me that they love seeing how I do so many outdoor adventures.  They say it inspires them to do it themselves, or it gives them ideas of places to go and things to try.

The world will be a better place when more people do more of the things that make them come alive.  So post the things that give you life, and inspire people around you to do likewise.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Post the kind of things that will spur your followers on to live a life filled with meaning and purpose and joy.  Jesus came to give us an abundant life; don’t be afraid to live it.

3. Share resources and ideas that have helped me grow

I love books and podcasts, and I love sharing about what I’m learning.  I love when other people share resources that have helped them grow, because I’m always on the lookout for a good book or podcast recommendation.  If I’ve found a new podcast or book that’s been particularly helpful, you’ll be hearing about it!

4. Talk about things that matter and people that matter

As someone who struggles with FOMO, I always hesitate when posting pictures with friends because I hate to inflict a fear of missing out on others.  While being sensitive to this, I also think it’s really important to celebrate community.  It’s a good moment for me to check my motives and make sure I’m not trying to make myself look popular, etc., but I love getting to celebrate and express gratitude for the amazing people God has put in my life.

I also think there’s times when it’s important to talk about hard issues.  Specifically, there are times when I make a point to talk about things I struggle with.  It’s not because I’m looking for sympathy, or trying to get some group therapy or social media therapy.  It’s just that we all struggle and sometimes it’s good to be reminded that you’re not the only one, and that God’s grace is sufficient.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

There’s an appropriate way to boast about our weaknesses.  I always find it so interesting when I’ll have coffee with a friend and an hour later read something she posted about a personal struggle she said nothing about when we were meeting.  Social media is never the place to work out your problems.  Social media therapy is never the best way to share.  It’s not “just being authentic.”  True authenticity is looking someone in the eyes and sharing, and opening yourself up to their response in person.  That being said, I do think there are times when it’s helpful to share honestly and appropriately because you never know who else is struggling with the same thing.  I just make sure anything I post to social media is something I’ve already been talking out with a real live human face-to-face before I broadcast to the world.  I don’t share hard things because I’m looking for a response; I share hard things because I know someone else is struggling and might need to know I’ve been there too.

5. Share the story of my life in such a way that Jesus is the hero.

I hope you’re still with me because this is the most important point.  I don’t want to craft an image on social media that makes me look great.  I want to tell the story of my life in a way that only points to how great Jesus is.


What about you?  What are reasons you think we should post or not post to social media?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


My first solitude retreat to Tahoe was almost by accident, really.

It was summer of 2014 and I had planned a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to see my brother who had just recently moved to the Northern California coast, and then on to visit my parents in Oregon. On a whim, I tacked on a few days in Tahoe to break up the long drive back to Orange County.

I bought my first paddleboard while I was in Oregon, strapped the 11 foot bohemoth to the top of my tiny little Corolla, and set my GPS for DL Bliss State Park at Lake Tahoe.

I fairly collapsed into Tahoe that first year.

I was burnt out, exhausted from ministry, and ready to throw in the towel. I told God I would give him these next three days to work a miracle or I was out. And then I waited. And God worked. And God spoke. And God breathed life back into my soul. And God took my hardened heart and broke it in all the right ways to put it back together better than before. God gave me a miracle that first year at Tahoe. There are still moments from that trip that I look back on as moments when God was closer than I had ever experienced before.

That's when I decided Tahoe needed to be an annual trip for me. Each year has been different, but significant in its own way. There's something incredibly sweet about the memories I'm creating with Jesus in this place. When I hike past certain places, or take my paddleboard out to watch the sunset on the lake, it's an invitation to remember just how good God was to show up here before. It's like when you get together with an old friend and reminisce about the good old days and tell stories until your sides ache from laughing. It's like that, only I'm recalling stories about how God showed up met me in life-changing ways, and I get to remember his faithfulness, even as I ask him to do it again.

This year was no different. I wish I knew how to bottle the magic of Tahoe and take it back to my everyday life, and also so that I could share it with you. I'm learning how to change my daily rhythms to bring some of Tahoe and the closeness I find with Jesus back into my everyday hectic life.

But I'm also convinced Jesus lives here at Tahoe, or he at least has a vacation home, and I'm kinda ok if there's a special magic about Tahoe that can't be found anywhere else.

Have you found a place like Tahoe? Would love to hear from you in the comments! Where is the place you feel closest to God?

The Middle East: Part 1

It’s taken me a month to even begin putting words to my trip to the Middle East.  There’s a chance if you’ve seen me in person and asked about the trip that I didn’t have much to say.  It’s not because nothing happened; rather quite the opposite was true.  So much happened that it felt impossible to know where to start, or how to do justice to the weight of the things I saw and learned.

And so, long overdue, I’d love to share with you one short story from my trip and one or two things I’ve been learning through this process.  

Let me start by introducing you to Hana (Please note: all names changed name to protect identities).

Hana grew up in a small town outside of Aleppo.  She was curious to learn more about Jesus, but everyone in her town was Muslim so there was no freedom to seek or ask questions, and there were no Christians that she could talk to.

When Hana and her husband left to seek refuge and a better life in Beirut, she was invited to a church with resources to help refugees.  As Hana and her husband started getting connected through the refugee relief programs, she was intrigued by the love she encountered and wondered what made these people so kind and compassionate.  

I met Hana at the church in Beirut, and later my team and I went to visit her home.  While we sat on thin mattresses on the floor of her tiny one-room apartment, the conversation quickly turned to what Hana had been learning about Jesus and some of the questions she had.  She mentioned Lazarus and that she wanted to learn more about his story, so I asked her if she would want to read the story together.  Our translator helped her download a Bible app on her phone, and together we read John 11 and talked about how Jesus not only had compassion for Lazarus and his family, but also that Jesus is incredibly powerful and can conquer death.

Hana kept coming back to how loving Jesus is, as well as how loving the followers of Jesus are.  “The love is unbelievable,” she kept saying in reference to the Christians she had met in Beirut.  And while Hana said she still isn’t ready to call herself a Christian, she did invite our translator to come with her to church, and she said she couldn’t wait to talk to her husband that night about what she was learning about Jesus.

Much like Hana, millions of refugees have fled their homes under devastating circumstances.  In the midst of this mass migration, people who otherwise never would have heard the gospel are resettling into new communities and for the first time in their lives encountering the good news of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, but the hostility and violence of an extremist Muslim sect like ISIS is causing many in the Muslim world to reevaluate their own faith.  So when these refugees flee the violence of their hometowns and are met with the unbelievable love of followers of Jesus, it results in a movement of the Holy Spirit unlike anything I could ever have imagined.  

I heard story after story of Muslims who had dreams or visions of Jesus and are now Christians — our team even met a former ISIS soldier who is now a Christian because of a vision he had about Jesus.  

In the midst of incredible hardship and darkness, the beauty and power of the gospel continues to shine brightly.  One of the most pressing questions I’ve wrestled with while on this trip and ever since being home comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

 “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”

As I consider the refugee crisis, and stare in the face of the greatest humanitarian crisis of my generation, I’ve been thinking about the gospel in a new way.  Is losing everything, fleeing a war torn country, and living in impoverished circumstances worth it if that’s what it takes to come to know Jesus?  In my comfortable life here in America, this verse is a nice abstract idea.  In the countries we visited, it’s a reality.  Many people did lose everything, and yet they gained Christ.  Many face persecution and death threats from their family if they leave Islam to follow Jesus, yet still choose to become a Christian anyway.  

It’s no wonder there is a revival happening in the Middle East because the followers of Jesus are holding nothing back.  In Hebrews 11 we read about men and women of faith “of whom the world was not worthy.”  As we spent time with the churches, pastors, staff, and volunteers in the Middle East, that phrase kept running through my mind.  I met so many men and women of incredible faith, worked in churches that are a bright light of hope in their community, and walked alongside pastors that are spiritual giants.

It’s been a month since I returned, and the truth is I still don’t know how to adjust to being home.  My mind and heart keep wandering to the people I met, the devastation I saw, and the ways I witnessed God at work.  I’m sure over the next couple months I’ll continue to unpack and process all that I saw and learned, but there’s two things I know for sure coming back from this trip:  there’s a revival happening in the Middle East, and I’ll never be same because of this trip.

Please continue to pray for the churches and the refugees in the Middle East.  God is up to something incredible in that little corner of the world!

I Believe in You

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the way they believed in me.  From their vantage point, there was nothing I couldn’t do if I only worked hard enough.  Their confidence often gave me the courage to keep going when I wanted to give up.  Whether it was making the Varsity soccer team or doing well on a math test, I knew my parents believed in me and that spurred me on to success.

Sometimes all we need in life is someone to believe in us.  Someone to say, “You’ve got this.  Keep going!”  A friend or family member to call us out to be the best version of ourselves and keep believing in us when we’ve stopped believing in ourselves.

You are exactly who God intended you to be.  He who makes no mistakes gave you precisely the right mix of natural abilities, personality, and spiritual gifts.  You are His workmanship, and He has created you perfectly and particularly to accomplish specific tasks in this world (Eph. 2:10).

Over and over again in the Bible, God calls out the screw-ups and least of these and says He is trusting them to carry out His mission in the world.

“Gideon, I know you’re from the weakest tribe of Israel, but I’m going to use you to free my people from oppression.” (Judges 6)

Ruth, I know you’re an outsider, but I’m going to use you to save your family and be a part of the lineage of the Messiah.”

“Peter, I know you’re a hot-headed fisherman, but I’m going to use you to build my church.”  (Matthew 16:18)

I struggle with believing in myself.  Every day I seem to find a new insecurity or a new reason to doubt myself.  It helps me tremendously to read these stories in the Bible and be reminded of how God uses imperfect people to perfectly accomplish His mission in the world.  On good days I can move past my insecurities and believe that God is bigger than my mistakes.  On good days I trust that He will use me and all my flaws to help push back the darkness in this world.  After all, the greatness of the gospel shines the brightest through the cracks in my life (2 Corinthians 4:7).

But on some days, I need more than that.  On some days, my insecurities are crippling.  I need a friend to tell me they believe in me, and remind me that God believes in me too.  I need someone who will call out the good in me, and remind me of who God made me to be.

One of the greatest gifts you can offer someone is to speak the truth of who God has made them to be.  Offer the gift of believing in them, and remind them that God believes in them too.  Is there someone in your life you can encourage today by telling them you believe in who God made them to be?  Be specific, and call out their strengths.  Tell them because you see this specific character trait in them, you know they have what it takes.  Remind them that they are not alone, and that God will provide the strength that they need.

And if you’re on the other end of the equation and need someone to believe in you, then know that I believe in you.  I believe in the potential God has given you, and that you can and will do even greater things than you could ever imagine if you will just keep trusting God.  And, more importantly, know that God believes in you too.

I believe in you



4 Helpful Responses When a Friend Shares Something Vulnerable (And What Not To Do)

[Originally written for the Small Group Network, and can be found at]

If we want to talk about community, we have to talk about authenticity and vulnerability.  If we want to talk about authenticity and vulnerability, we have to talk about shame.

Shame is the greatest barrier to community. If we can’t learn how to address shame properly, our churches and our small groups will struggle to grow into authentic and transparent communities that experience transformation at anything deeper than a surface level.

New York Times bestselling author Brene Brown has researched shame and its effects on relationships for more than a decade. According to Brown, guilt says I did something bad, while shame says I am bad.

She further describes shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”[i]

Guilt correlates to our actions as bad. Shame correlates to our worth and identity as bad.

To put this in a biblical perspective, we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), our value, worth, and identity are all secured by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19) and our sin, selfishness, and stupidity are completely forgiven and we are in right standing before God (2 Cor. 6:21).

If shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging,” then it has no part in the life of the believer, and no part in our small groups or our churches.

What, then, are we to do in response to the weight of shame that is crushing many in our churches, and that hinders our small groups from experiencing transparency?

  1. Refuse to use shame as a weapon.

    Leveraging shame can be a powerful motivator, and has been wrongly used by religious authorities to coerce behavior for centuries. It’s tempting to use because it’s effective in the short term, but in the long run it destroys community.

  2. Leverage empathy as the antidote to shame.

    The power of shame lies in darkness and the fear of what will happen when hidden things are brought to the light. Empathy is the skill of connecting with someone in their hurt, pain, and brokenness in a way that says, “I’ve been there too, and you’re not alone.”

When people share something vulnerable, especially something that potentially has some shame attached to it, here’s what we need to communicate:

  1. Thanks for trusting us enough to share that.

  2. We love you, and this doesn’t change how we see you.

  3. God loves you, and this doesn’t change how He sees you.

  4. It sounds like this is something really painful in your life, and we want you to know that you’re not alone.

Real community is messy, and real transformation is hard. Shame is the greatest barrier to authentic community, but the body of Christ can provide an incarnational expression of the gospel of grace as we learn to respond with empathy and love to the struggles of others.


If you want to learn more, start with this TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability: