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November 25, 2013, 10:01 AM

It has become....Self Aware



Any good science fiction reader will understand the terrifying nature of the title of this blog.  There are countless stories of a dystopian future involving machines, computers, or robots that have become "self-aware" and want to eradicate those pesky humans.  Unfortunately, this is not a science fiction story, nor will it deal with angry robots or computers seeking ways to eliminate us.  For those of you looking for that, I apologize and give you permission to continue your leisurely internet browsing.  If you were hoping for something a little more meaty, then please keep reading.  

I'm a little worried about the concept in my title, not because of its fictional implications, but because of the power it has over our churches.  We are not self-aware, and its to our detriment.  For many, church is something so rote or routine that it takes little to no brain power to participate in.  We have the pieces down to an art, or worse: a habit.  We wake up at the same time, which we have worked out down to the second how much time it takes us to shower, tuck in our shirts, get the kids up, feed them breakfast while we gulp down a cup of coffee and make sure everyone gets out the door with both shoes on so we can arrive at church with it all together.  We allow ourselves those precious seconds and panic ensues if something goes wrong in that pattern of activity.  

But we make it... every week.  Walking through the doors with a smile (fake or real, doesnt matter as long as its a smile). We know where the bulletins are, we know where our friends sit, and we know where we sit.  The start time is always the same, and it usually means we begin by standing together.  Then we move into a reading, a prayer, and communion which means we put on our thoughtful face... you know, the face that means we are thinking about how hard it was on the cross.  We hear a sermon, listening for the cues that he's finally wrapping up, and we shake hands on our way out to our well thought out lunch location.  

We have this down to an art form.  Operating in the realm of "Christianity and Religion" without letting it mess with any of the precious internal workings of our lives.  This is the moment where, if you're satisfied with that level of belief, that you continue your leisurely internet browsing elsewhere because we are about to become self-aware. 

You had your chance!  We must wake up, church.  Religion has become a habit, one that we can participate in without even thinking about it anymore, much like our taking out the trash schedule, and commute to work.  We only wake up when things go wrong.  And then, when things go wrong, we pay attention until we're through the traffic jam and can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.  When God began this relationship with his people (yes, all the way back in the beginning) he courted a partner that would involve themselves in the dance.  He doesnt want someone who just stands there with slack jaw and blank eyes waiting for the song to end.  He was looking for someone who would dance.  

If we are going to be that partner in this life, we must become self-aware.  Has our pursuit of God become merely religion?  Meaning a habit, something we can pursue with mindless efficiency?  Or will be open our eyes, engage our brains and become aware of our surroundings and the deterrents we have put in place to encountering God in this crazy dance of life?!!!  WE must become the self-aware machines rampaging through the barriers that have limited us for so long... God is waiting to be re-discovered around every corner.  




November 18, 2013, 1:26 PM

at the Rock-Bottom Cafe



Good Day Reader.  

I like to celebrate winning.  Some people may call it "Trash-Talking", but I prefer to call it "Pointed Celebration!"  What is really happening is that I like to win, be on top, prove myself smarter or better than everyone else.  Its all about ego, pride, and domination.  Churches like to be on top too.  To be the biggest, most progressive, most inclusive, most attended, most beautiful and modern facilities...  The list goes on.  It has become a part of our culture as the Body of Christ to compete with each other, whether its spoken directly or not.  We like to be top dog.  

Lets go further with this and look inside our own heads:   "I'm glad I'm not like her...."; or "My kids are so much more behaved than theirs.";  or even "At least I dont struggle with sin like he does."  There is a hierarchy in place, spoken or not, in churches.  Those that are best dressed, and have it all together are placed on pedestals.  We dont intend to marginalize, but its in our nature to do as such.  

As we continue our thoughts from Sunday's sermon (11/17), when we fall to the default, or very basic character of Christ in our lives this becomes a non-issue.  Looking through the interactions between Jesus and pretty much everyone, we see him existing in the margins, connecting with people no matter their place or social standing. As we build our lives, marriages, families, and ministries we must reach into those margins and model our rock-bottom foundation on the character of Christ.  The storms will come, and are most likely already here.  We will go toe-to-toe with cancer, divorce, failure, rejection, financial ruin, bullying, disappointment, and a slew of other storms that threaten our foundations.  If we are built on sand, or the foundations of culture, popularity, acceptance, or even doctrine (not theology) we will fall (like the foolish man's house going SMASH).  

However, being at the very rock bottom, foundationally speaking, provides us the strength we need to not only survive the storms, but thrive.  Important SIDE NOTE:  we are never promised happiness in the storms, prosperity despite the storms, instant healing in the storms... we are simply promised the "get to the other side" through the storms.  That may mean a life of deformity, oppression, sacrifice, and unfulfilled dreams.  It may not be a pleasant journey, but it will be a successful one when the destination is reached (in our case, Heaven!!!!!).  

Which takes us forward to next week.  Finding ourselves at rock bottom, and being thankful for it.  Turn to Luke 18: 9 - 14.  I confess that while I have not prayed like the Pharisee here, I have had thoughts and intents like the Pharisee.  Forgive me please, I'm still in recovery.  I dont want to be at rock bottom because, well, it isnt popular enough or sensitive enough to my fragile ego!!  Its too easy to look around and wish I were a mega-church pastor, with a twitter feed that resembled your most beloved celebrities.  Its easy to look up from rock bottom and assume I'm being punished or oppressed, or missing opportunities.  And in that I take the character of Christ and brush it aside for pride.  

Church... I fear for us if we cannot become self-aware, knowing the devastation we have wrought in our plights to avoid rock bottom.  We have created idols of success and fertility in other institutions.  We have secularized our financial beings.  Leadership has become about reputation or financial savvy more than about shepherding and pastoring.  Rock bottom has become what happens to churches who get it 'wrong' and close their doors.  Rock bottom is to be avoided, not celebrated like in the parable of Christ in Luke 18.  

I am a recovering Pharisee.  Please join in me in my quest to check my ego at the door and thrive in the character of Christ... at rock bottom.  

 

 

 




November 7, 2013, 9:08 AM

Play Like Champions Today...... and SkyMall.



Its not often I get to work SkyMall magazine into a blog title, so I jumped at the opportunity! I was perusing said magazine whilst waiting for that magical clearance of 10,000 feet to re-engage the book I was reading electronically on a recent flight.  This sign caught my eye:  "Play Like Champions Today" signed by the great Lou Holtz from Notre Dame Football (item #SSM184).  A sign like this hangs above the exit of the Notre Dame locker room for players to tap on their way onto the field.  Its a simple reminder that if you want to be a champion, you play like a champion, no matter the month, score, or opponent.  

I wondered what would happen if I hung a sign like this on the way out of the auditorium at the church I serve in KC.  Well, lo and behold, I visited a church that had just such a sign hung above its main door that very week.  I spotted it from afar and had to make the trek back there to read its inscription.  It said:  Leave to Serve.  I then knew what I would find on the other side of the door, and my suspicions proved true: Enter to Worship was pasted above the door to motivate upon entry.  

My curiosity was piqued and I decided that I needed to see if this sign elicited any response, or attention at all.  Neither did.  In fact, I noticed another alarming tendency:  while this door was used for an entry, I saw few using it to exit.  I wonder if this sign did indeed have an impact on the people, much like the decree to Play Like Champions Today does to the football players at Notre Dame.  

I do believe this sign creates conflict among those passing under its command.  If you jump up and hit the Champions sign, you are declaring to everyone that you WILL play like a champion and that your team can count on you to elevate your game to that level. If you dont play like a champion, you have lied to your teammates.

What are we saying if we walk under the sign telling us to Serve and do nothing? After all, when we walked in we were totally fine with the Worship part.  In fact, we have very strong opinions about how good we are at worshipping and how others obviously missed the part where their worship was declared wrong.  We take pride in our ability to gather on time, walking in with high expectations of what is going to be presented.  We enter expecting great things....... but are those expectations being realized on the way back into the World?  Are we walking away from our well-dressed, orderly gathering to take the energy and passion of a limitless and loving God outside these attractive and safe walls?  

Nope.  We're not.  In fact, we're probably looking for another door, with a less descriptive charge on it.  Maybe a "Leave with Good Intentions" sign would be the exit we want.  I'm betting we'd have a ton of traffic under the "Just Leave, and Maybe Get a Bite to Eat" door, as that affirms in us to do what we were going to do anyways.  

The sign thing has pushed a greater concern into the forefront of my mind, and it has nothing to do with a sign.  It has everything to do with us and how we view the Church, our Leadership, and our role in both.  I cant tell you how many times, how many conversations have revolved around a question or statement like this:  "I wish this church would just ____________________."  Or a question like this: "Why cant someone here ___________________?"  These are verbal clues to a greater problem staring down the throat of the Western Church.  
We are viewing our Church, our Leadership like shopping malls; places we go to window shop and occasionally plop down some money on what we think is a solid investment.  Afterward we walk away wondering what windows will be there next week for us to peruse, and whether or not we should go find another mall with different windows for us to discover.  

To be plain: the health of the Church and the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be left up to the power of church staff and a small group of men judiciously elected.  If we want a healthy Church, what are we doing to create a healthy church with healthy ministries?  If we want a community to know us what are we doing to model the Bride of Christ to them (outside of looking dapper on Sunday mornings)?  

If you find yourself asking questions like "Why doesnt this church just _________________?"  Or "Why dont the elders ______________________ instead of asking for someone else to do it?";  Perhaps the next question should be: "What am I doing to Play Like a Champion Today?"  
 




October 14, 2013, 10:44 AM

Inadequate



Good Day Reader!  Its been a while since I've sat down and threw some of my thoughts at you.  For some, this is a good thing, for the rest: thank you for being patient as my wandering mind has been occupied with building remodels and retreat sermon building.  

Today I want to talk about my feelings of inadequacy.  THAT sounds like fun, doesnt it?!  It isnt fun, but I know we'll get somewhere here in a second or two, so stick with me.  

The profession I am in is one where I am called to share God's Word with people, interpreting it and crafting sermons into digestible and (hopefully) interesting segments.  Who am I to undertake such a great task?  Who am I to think that my interpretation and calling to interpret is greater than yours?  It isnt.  Ever.  Period.  Totally.  For Realz.  (insert whatever definitive you like here: ________).  This understanding of my limited understanding makes me feel inadequate and unworthy to be the mouthpiece of God.  Why Me?  Couldnt he have found someone with a voice that is broader, stronger (both figuratively and literally), and doesnt have that weird breathy tone that mine does?  

Yes, yes he could.  

BUT (there's always a but with these things) there is something that needs to be remembered about the character of God:  He LOVES me.  Period.  Totally.  For Realz.  

This past weekend I got to speak and present to an amazing group of teenagers and adults at a retreat with the focus: Reckless Abandon.  I was asked to bring 4 messages that would be a spark for those in attendance to live a life recklessly for God.  Sounds easy, there are many, many examples of folks in the Bible who laid it all on the line.  

I thought about all the typical stories and characters one in my position could use to be relevant and successful in getting a message across.  Instead of one of the "easy" ones grabbing a hold of my imagination, I had a story work its way into my mind and grab a hold of me so tightly that there was no denying it.  So, instead of preaching about heroes who built arks, became kings of Egypt, walked on water, or spent their life spreading the gospel, I spent four sermons talking to teenagers and adults about a prostitute.  

Yes...You heard that correctly, a prostitute.  Grab your Bible and turn to Joshua 2.  Keep your finger there and get to Matt 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; and James 3:25 too.  Rahab.  This woman moves from a wildly successful prostitute in Jericho to Great-Great Grandma of David.   She had a house built into the wall, in view of the gates and entry into the city, a place of importance and much influence.  The King of Jericho also knew exactly where to find her, which alludes to a higher end of clientele.  This woman was good at what she did.  I guarantee she was confident, and had no feelings of inadequacy when it came to her place in the order of things in Jericho.  

And then two spies show up.  Men from Israel, the nation that has been a plague on the countryside of Canaan.  Taking every town, wiping out kings, and claiming the land wherever they set foot.  Jericho knew what was up, and knew what was coming.  The spies get into town and for some reason (we wont got into the why or what of it) they end up at Rahab's residence/business/house.  And because of a story that she has heard about something God did 40 years ago, she immediately changed allegiance, stepped out on faith with a God she did not know, made the choice to believe, and lived through the destruction of Jericho.  

But thats not the point of this blog.  God shows up, big time.  Jericho falls.  Rahab is spared along with her family.  God's people hold their end of the bargain and she is brought out alive.  Imagine with me the walk back to Israel's camp after Jericho is taken.  The army is ecstatic having witnessed (again) God's power.  They have the plunder of the town and blood on their swords.  The mood is jubilant as they are welcomed back.  

And at the back of the line, walking quietly, eyes down is Rahab.  She is covered in the dust of the town she knew.  She is in shock after witnessing God's power. Where did she sleep that night?  What did she eat?  Did anyone offer her water?  I can only imagine the whispers she heard as people realized there was a group of people pulled from the wreckage of Jericho.  "What are they doing alive?"  "Did we forget to cut their throats?"  

This woman was not Jewish.  She was a prostitute, and the last of her city to be alive.  You want to talk about feeling inadequate?  She did not belong.  She did not have a clue about Jewish culture, tradition, dietary restrictions, laws, commands, or the any of the story.  

And God loved her.  

God showed himself reckless as he opened his arms and surrounded this woman, her past, her future. Everything was wrapped up in his embrace.  His love outshone her inadequacy, and she found herself in the spotlight of grace.  How do I know this?  Read Matthew 1:5.  This woman finds herself included into the nation of Israel, the tribe of Judah, and into the most important genealogy EVER.  Read Hebrews 11.  This woman is listed right next to ABRAHAM as an example of faith.  

If you ever feel inadequate, non-existent, out of place, or just downright down, look no further than a prostitute who found herself surrounded by the arms of God.   

While I feel inadequate to tell the story of God, I know that there is one thing that makes that feeling of inadequacy shrink into the background.  God loves me.  




August 5, 2013, 10:33 AM

I think I prefer snuggling with Jesus...



Yes, you read the title right.  I like snuggling with Jesus.  I like the warm-fuzzies, the reassuring words, the blessings of being close to Jesus.  What I dont like is all the effort I need to put in to maintain any form of relationship with Jesus.  Cant we just cuddle?  

I have an idea for a new product that I think will sweep the nation, especially those churches who are more interested in cuddling than growing:  The Jesus-Snuggie.  Its all warm and fuzzy and clingy... and then you can take it off and move about your day unencumbered by all those rules and regulations that come with a Christ-filled life.  Yep, that and the "The Aroma of Christ" cologne and perfume... gonna make me rich. 

My fear is that the only Biblical input many of us receive each week is the hour or two we spend on Sunday mornings in a building somewhere.  If thats all you get, you are a Jesus-cuddler, not a Jesus Follower.  What scares me even more is that those silly sermons I write and present might be the only Biblical input someone may be getting each week.  We're both in trouble if that is all you get!!!  Thats more of a handshake with Jesus, and doesnt even come close to the cuddling stage of the relationship.  

We, the global Church, CANNOT grow if all we do is snuggle up once a week then head back to a distant silence with Christ the other 166 hours.  

 

So are you a cuddler or a follower?  




July 1, 2013, 11:20 AM

why I prefer False Humility over no humility at all...



Well, at least you tried... right?  Wait, thats backwards, isnt it... I'd rather deal with the proudest person on the planet than try and wade through the pretense of false humility.  Let me be honest: I've tried to walk that line, struggling with the ego that comes from a job offer from a very large church, accepting that offer, then realizing my pride only aided in me being chewed up and spit unceremoniously to the side.  Was it ego that caused the fall?  No, but it certainly aided in the agony afterward!  

Folks, humility... yes, genuine humility, is KEY to the life of a disciple.  I cant help but look back at Jesus' closest friends and the trouble they got themselves into by posturing for better places in the coming Kingdom they expected Jesus to establish at any moment.  They were definitely feeling big in the britches about their place alongside Jesus, and be honest, so would you and I.  Am I condemning them for it?  Can I condemn anyone for pride? No.  What scares me is the opportunities we have to hide our pride behind a false humility, or the mask we put on of being "the meek" while barely controlling the hunger for station and reputation inside.  

We must be content with leading from the back of the line.  Thats doesnt mean yelling up to the guy holding up the line at the front!  It means showing the world that its OK for them to walk on us; Demonstrating to the world that we dont mind a little more persecution because of our beliefs.  After all, we're Blessed... we have a better place coming than anything this world has at the front of the line... 

Yes, another post from the "Easier Said than Done" department of Christian Living.  But what does it say to the world when we speak of humility and our willingness to serve, and talk of our understanding of the "last shall be first . . . " and then elbow people out of the way on our trek to get a deviled egg?! (those things always go fast and early at potlucks).  

I cant get over the idea that what has really messed things up today is NOT any litigation, legislation, or regulation for or against Christianity; the problem lies in the fact that Christians are no longer discernable from the rest of the population.  Meaning, we have allowed ourselves to look, act, and respond just like everyone else.  Doesnt the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make us different?  Shouldnt our knowledge, hope, and understanding that being Blessed make us different? 

Let your humility be true.  Whether your slapped in the face by ignorance, or standing on the foundation of righteous truth........ above all, humility.  

Thanks for reading... I'm off to update the title on my business card...  I've always loved the word "Potentate."  




June 24, 2013, 10:27 AM

The Swamp. . .



Yesterday (6/23/13), we began slogging through the swamp of Matthew 5:4 - Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Yes, its a swamp.  My mind wandered to the stories I've read or watched where our heroes came face to face with a swamp that stood between them and their ultimate goal.  

Did Jesus intend for his words to look so daunting and overwhelming?  Probably not, but the truth of the matter is that human nature (and even culture) sees mourning, depression, anxiety, and despair as insurmountable obstacles to traverse on our own.  How many commercials, articles, and products are we exposed to that are designed to "help" us through depression and anxiety?  I remember when my high school handed out stress balls to seniors the week before finals.  I promise we didn't use those for anything BUT relieving stress... and yes, that includes throwing them.  

We want a quick and easy way through the swamp, one that keeps our feet dry, keeps the bugs at bay, and ultimately smells more like home than what a swamp usually smells like.  As difficult as the swamp looks, sounds, and smells, we cannot avoid it.  As followers of Christ we must follow his steps no matter where they lead (that last statement is courtesy of the "Easier Said than Done" department).  

Jesus understands you, and me.  He knows how human nature works.  He knows how hard we work to protect ourselves.  He also knows exactly how to get the best out of us.  That process of growth and excellence begins with being Poor in Spirit and Mourning.  The two hardest steps up this mountain towards Godly character are right off the bat: Dependence and despair.   ONLY by taking these first two steps will we be on the right path towards Christ-like character.  Think about Jesus' humble beginnings here on Earth: born a carpenter not royalty, in a manger, far from home, and into a cultural mess that saw a tyrant commit mass genocide in an attempt to kill him.  As he walks through the humble beginnings we see the shaping of the character of Jesus that cares about the "'least of these."  We see compassion born from roots mired in hard work, without entitlement.  

Will we join him in that swamp?  Growing, developing our character into disciples built to guide others through the swamp of what life throws at them.  That was his final message to his closest friends, and that is the message that rings through the Beatitudes.  

I like the poem "Footprints in the Sand", but I've also grown disenchanted with it.  If only every long walk with Jesus was on a beach!!!  If only we could feel the sand between our toes and the sun on our faces as we transit through this life!!  Unfortunately, most of life looks more like a bog than a beach.  Will you still follow alongside him? 

 

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June 17, 2013, 10:28 AM

Blessed.



Its easy to say we're a blessed people.  We have a lot of the world's wealth; a lot of the world's food supply; houses without holes; cars with tires, windows, and gas stations on every other corner;  pets; a change of clothes or two or twelve; etc... etc... America is a blessed country.  We have freedom, which is something we should be proud of.  

Why do we struggle then with living through the Beatitudes?  After all, we already have the "Blessed" part down, don't we? All that needs our attention is what comes after that....... and therein lies the problem.  We want the "blessed" part but not so much the Poor in Spirit part. 

Lets remind ourselves a little about the context of the Beatitudes, so we don't wander too far from them:  The Sermon on the Mount was spoken to a Jewish audience, with a Jewish story, and a Jewish context for the words laid out before them.  They had an understanding that far exceeds ours when Jesus told them about being "blessed".  For them, being blessed meant they had a part of the Kingdom being established by God eternally.  It had little to nothing to do with physical conditions, possessions, attitudes, emotions, or anything else on a daily level.  Being blessed held them to the understanding that all this is temporary and endurable because what comes next is far superior and worth waiting for.  

The mess of western culture and context that we associate with the word "blessed" is what (in my opinion) takes us so far away from the meaning of Jesus' words in the Beatitudes and makes them a little easier to ignore in their entirety.  Being poor doesn't sound like a blessing.  Mourning doesn't sound like a blessing.  Humility?  No thanks.  

Its about focus... and I'm using that word literally, what do we focus on?  I have poor eyesight and require glasses in order to make any sense of things that lie more than 3 or 4 inches from my face.  Without my glasses I could not distinguish these words as I type them... in order to focus on what is ahead of me, I need my glasses.  However, if I want to close my world off into a much smaller circle and free up my mind, all I need to do is take my glasses off.... Boom, my focus is shifted drastically.  What is going on outside my circle of sight is no longer "relevant" to me because I cant see it clearly anyways.  Mind you, that leaves me very open for a football to the face, but that's a different story of relevance all together.  

We need a shift in focus, much like the removing (or adding) of glasses.  Our eyes need to shift from being so caught up with this world and what it needs to offer that we have this far off and unfocused gaze about us.  We must know that this world only has temporary pains, temporary gains, and temporary trials that are not worth our continued focus.  Our eyes must be found drifting to the place that is eternally pain free, eternally healing, and eternally peaceful.  Because we are blessed.  

Be blessed today not because you're making a sufficient salary or hourly wage, but because you find yourself dependent on God alone. 

 




June 3, 2013, 10:33 AM

an act of simple obedience



Howdy. 

What if I were to start this blog entry with a menial task for you to complete before reading further, perhaps grabbing a small glass of water to have on hand for instructions to follow.  Would you really go get a glass of water?  I wouldnt think less of you if you just kept on plowing through the words, ignoring the glass of water and figuring you could just pretend you have a glass of water when we get to that point in the message.  

Well, what if you were in a hostile foreign country, where the indiginous people really, really didnt like you and you were told to grab some food knowing FULL well that you would probably be denied service just about every way you turn?  I would question the order myself.  

I've always wondered about what issues the disciples were having trying to find food in Samaria while Jesus chatted with the woman at Jacob's well in John 4.  First off, they didnt take the Jewish route AROUND Samaria, instead plowing right on through much to the shagrin of pretty much EVERY Jew.  Second, they were all Jewish men who were forbidden by law to associate with a Samaritan, more or less ask them for food, drink, etc... 

But here they are, following a simple command of Jesus to find some food while he rests by the well.  They miss the entire exchange with the woman Jesus talks to.  All they get to witness is the dramatic conclusion of the woman running back into town to tell everyone about the Messiah.

Its that simple command to go get food though that sticks out in my head this morning.  Would I have been so willing to walk away from Jesus in a hostile town and try and barter or purchase food from someone who hated me?  Do you have any idea what the Samaritans would do with your food before they gave it to you?  Without hesitation though, off they went.  A simple task made much more complicated by their prejudices and preconceived notions. 

What has Jesus asked you to do that has you dragging your feet or making excuses to get out of?  I'm not talking about those big things like dropping your pursuit of money and running to the mission field in Africa... I'm talking about those pesky little habits that walk you right to the doorstep of temptation.  I'm talking about those tiny little expressions of forgiveness and compassion that we would rather brush under the rug.  What about those small displays of moral fortitude and integrity that may not result in a promotion but instead keep your feel on solid ground? 

Are we an obedient folk to the little things?  Because its the little things that will define us in the end.  You probably wont fully remember 1 sermon I preach for the next ten years... but if I treat you like dirt just once, you will never forget it... The same goes for a small act of kindness or compassion, those are remembered long after their expiration date.  

Take some time to work on the 10-Second rule this week, doing the thing that you're pretty sure Jesus wants you do to, and do it within the next 10 seconds.  I'm looking forward to hearing the stories next week of all your newfound obedience adventures. 

 

chris




May 20, 2013, 10:38 AM

Why Simplicity is Important



Good Day Reader! 

Who wants one more thing to do this week?  Anyone?  (insert cricket noises here).  

Of course not! No one wants more things to add to an already busy schedule.  Even if your schedule is mercifully not packed to the brim, adding more and more responsibility until it is packed to the brim is not smart or healthy.  

Too many of us are living with schedules that have us moving, running, lifting, driving, sitting, learning, and watching non-stop.  Then you get to church and I have more challenges or programs to throw at you.  Or, I lay on the guilt for having too many other things going on that take you away from focusing on the important pieces of your life like following Jesus and all that goes along with that journey. 

Needless to say, it gets more and more overwhelming until something has to go.  Too often I'm afraid its the journey of faith that suffers in the due course of doing life.  After all, we can study late Saturday night for our Sunday morning class, or even fit it in on the way into church.  We can leave our Bibles in the car conventiently there for pickup on the way into the building.  

Where I'm going with this is here:  we must simplify.  I dont mean dumbing things down, I mean streamlining our thought processes and making our faith journey one of instinct and not a conscious decision we weigh against every other decision we try and make throughout the day.  How much easier would it be if making the Christ-like decisions were as natural as breathing and self preservation?!!!  How much freedom would come if we naturally directed our attention to the things that took us closer to God and not away (through distraction, temptation, or outright sin)!  

This is the premise to the upcoming sermons series on the book The 10 Second Rule.  We need to retrain ourselves to react instinctively to the things that we're sure Jesus would want us to do.  And do those things within 10 seconds of feeling that prompt.  We will have an area in the lobby that you can share your stories of what happened when you followed your prompts.  I shared a story of making a very difficult phone call I "had" to make this week based on my prompting that something needed to be done based on some information shared with me from a former youth group member.  I could have easily shook off the prompt and assured myself that someone else would take care of it....... but that only allows me to make more excuses why I dont want to follow Jesus fully. 

I'm sure the priest and the levite had excellent reasons why they didnt stop on their way into Jericho to help the man who was robbed, beaten, and left by the side of the road.  Their excuses would sound fully rational to us, as busy, rushed beings.  The problem is, those excuses are becoming louder and more convincing than the voice of Jesus crying for mercy, forgiveness, peace, and compassion!!!  

We must become an instinctually reactive people, reacting to this world and its opportunities through the characteristics and eyes of Jesus. 

You've got 10 seconds to make it happen.......... GO!!!

 

 

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May 13, 2013, 8:46 AM

Why the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well is so important...



 

Because Jesus likes you.  And if that doesnt give you a little hope on this Monday, I'm not sure what else I can say that will. 

 

Lets travel back to this story, and look at some of the finer points that prove just how much Jesus likes you.  Grab a Bible and turn to John 4.  
It starts with Jesus being hungry and thirsty.  He sent his guys out for take-out, and sat by the well to get some liquid relief.  You may notice though, we dont ever see Jesus get a drink, lunch, or rest.  In fact, when his guys get back to the well with lunch, he says he's already full!  

What had Jesus filled up on?  Loving You.  Despite the flaws, bad habits, neglected sinful nature, and poor attitudes, he is sustained by loving you.  This woman was a mess.  She couldnt sustain a relationship, and was very likely the talk of the knitting club.  Jesus didnt mind all that, nor did that stop him from reaching out to her and revealing a major piece of the mystery directly to her.  "I am the Messiah."  Doesnt get any clearer than that.  Seriously, who else had heard this from Jesus up to this point in the story???  And here he is confessing his true nature to an adulterer... a Samaritan... and a woman!!!  

Do not confuse Jesus' affection for you despite your flaws as an excuse to not address those flaws.  Jesus loves us beyond measure, just the way we are... and he refuses to let us remain just the way we are.  

When he offers us the hope of being the Way, the Truth, and the Life we must be growing into a Christ-like life.  If you're not growing......well, you're dying.  

Jesus likes you just the way you are, and he loves you enough to not leave you that way.  

Now THATS the good life!

 

\

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May 6, 2013, 9:56 AM

Whats the point if it isn't relevant?



Really, if it isnt relevant to you or I right now, whats the point?  

I could preach a million sermons about how great heaven will be, and how great it will be to live in the physical presence of God... and if it isnt relevant to you right now... they'd all be a waste of breath.  I dont care how crafted or powerful the words would be, if we dont look at heaven as relevant, if we dont have a firm grasp of our temporary citizenship here, then its all moot.  

I struggled putting together relevant thoughts on Jesus' statement of being the Resurrection and the Life for this week's sermon.  Why?  Because I'm not really considering dying any time soon.  The idea of resurrection sounds really nice, but I'm hoping that I dont have to experience death any time soon. (Unless Jesus comes back very soon, I'm all for that!!).  I guess thats why I ran to the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac in preparation and presentation of this statement of Jesus.  

I am just like Martha in John 11.  I have the head knowledge and belief that Jesus is who he says he is, but struggle with that making its way into my heart.  I'm living the "Yeah, but..." responses to Jesus' statement of being the Resurrection and the LIfe.  

When Jesus arrives in Bethany, days after Lazarus has died... the town is in mourning, the sisters are a mess, and everyone is pretty much wondering (maybe even a few out loud) why Jesus took his sweet time getting there if he loved Lazarus so much.  

Jesus is about to make Resurrection and Life relevant, and very much a factor in the present... despite everyone looking backwards to the past or way out into the future.  Here's how I see it playing out (note, I'm adding some emphasis and paraphrasing the responses).  

John 11: 21 - If you were here, my brother would not have died.  Where were you Jesus?  We gave you plenty of time to get here.  

vs. 23  "Your brother will rise again."  

vs 24 Sigh.  I know, I know.  We'll all rise and have a grand party in heaven... but my brother is still dead.  

Martha struggled with the power and presence of Jesus being relevant to her life, her circumstances, and her grief.  She pushed Jesus ahead, out of the "I AM" and into something gold and shiny that doesnt really have any value in the present.  

Naturally, Jesus exploded their world view, as well as their limited view of his power and relevance.  

 

So....  Readers... where are you in this scale of belief?  Pushing those characteristics and commands of Jesus off until a "better" time?  Still playing Martha and delaying the power of Jesus in your life by pushing him ahead into irrelevance?  I struggle with this... and all the ammunition we need to fight that temptation is right there in two powerful, little words:  "I AM"  

 

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April 29, 2013, 9:03 AM

Putting Psalm 23 back into perspective



Good Day Reader!

Early in yesterday's sermon (4/28) I read Psalm 23.  Now, like many of you, I've had this one memorized for most of my life.  Which was why I am surprised to say that it had a very real, and very different affect on me while reading it.  I didnt mention the line of thinking that came about in those fleeting moments because I wanted to stay on track with the sermon... but I dont have to worry about that here.  

For those few seconds I was thrown into the story of Much Afraid from Hinds Feet in High Places.  This book was published long ago and works as an allegory for a life spent seeking and following Christ.  I was pushed into the title character's place and it seemed that everything that scares me or is looming in front of me came to the forefront of my mind.  It reminded me of the characteristic of sheep, when they're following the shepherd and sense that the path they are on is a deadend, they stop.  It doesnt matter if its just a curve or a short hill that seems to block the path, if it looks like it ends... thats where they stop.  When this happens the shepherd has to take a firmer role in leading the sheep.  

What is blocking your path?  What has you stalling out in your pursuit of the Shepherd?  For me its uncertainty and lack of confidence in my abilities to lead and help grow a Church.  The path seems to drop out of sight just a few paces ahead, even when I know the circumstances and calling of Jesus is right over the ridge... I feel my footsteps faltering.  

I've seen and heard of financial problems grinding relationships to dust.  I've watched marriages dissolve, friendships shatter, and Christian walks trip up.  All because the path the Shepherd chose for us goes in a direction we cant see or understand.  Pride can keep us from following the Shepherd, maybe even more effectively than fear.  

Thats where Psalm 23 got me yesterday.  I need the Rod and Staff of the Shepherd to be more than comfort today.  On this path, I need their aid in the discipline to keep moving forward.  I need their aid in remaining sure-footed, guiding along the path that hasnt revealed itself yet. 

Psalm 23 is more than calm streams and green pastures.  It is just as much about walking through shadowy valleys and being in the presence of enemies.  The constant presence through it all though is the Shepherd.  He hasnt left us.  He hasnt abandoned us to the dwindling sustinance of the pasture... he is moving us forward.  Are we following?  

Psalm 23 (NLT)
A psalm of David.
1The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.



April 22, 2013, 10:23 AM

I much prefer the "I WAS"...



Good Day Reader, 

As I contemplate further and further the character of Jesus painted in the "I AM" statements in the book of John I have to offer that it is becoming more and more invasive to my peace of mind.  There is a relevancy to these statements that puts Jesus front and center in places I never expected (or maybe even wanted) him to show up.  It is a true testament to the level of God's understanding of us today that these statements walk all over my consciousness on a typical Monday morning in the office.  When he speaks of being the "I AM" he brings his character into today.  When I spoke of preferring the "I WAS" I meant that it is much simpler to speak of Jesus in the past.  I like telling the stories of the things he DID as opposed to the things he wants to DO through me.  I like telling about how Abraham proved his faith so completely, and not trying to echo that faith with my choices on a daily basis.  Yes, the "I WAS" is much more comfortable to write about in the blog.  But, seeing as how I cant get away with that, lets refresh our memories about where we've gone so far:

Lets walk through the three that have been covered in the series so far: bread, light, and the door.  You see, when I type them like that I'm already seeing where Jesus' character has driven itself into my day so far, and its only 10:01 am.  I officially started my day with breakfast while perusing the newswire online.  I wish I could say I had a wonderful sampling of fine toast with a delectable peanut spread on top.......alas, I had a low-calorie protein shake.  As much as I want to lament the lack of cinnamon roles or french toast in my morning diet, I am drawn to Jesus' statement of being "the Bread of Life" to his followers.  The concept of the sustainability of a loaf of bread is relevant and fitting I think to all of us.  Its a universal staple to the diet on a global scale. If you have bread, you have the means to live one more day.  I have a great friend currently serving as a missionary in AZ to the San Carlos Apache Nation.  He recalled a time in his youth ministry internships in St. James, MO where all he had was a loaf of white bread and ketchup packets from a local fast food joint.  Yes, he filled himself with ketchup sandwiches......and he was grateful.  He speaks of God's sustinance in his life at that time.  Was he hungry?  Yes, but not to the point of despair.  Was he wishing for something more?  Yes, but not to the point of walking away from the outstanding ministry in front of him.  He was fed.  He was sustained.  There was a satisfaction outside of the physical meal that kept him following......it was the understanding that Jesus provides beyond our physical needs.    What have you had for breakfast?  Are you being sustained beyond the grumbling of your stomach? 

The Light.  Whats the first thing I did when I stepped into my office?  Turned on the light.  I'm at the point where even the slightest of shadows affects my ability to see clearly.  This frustrates me.  I want to be like my girls who apparently dont need any light whatsoever to see clearly.  I've taken to repeating the nagging messages spoken to me long ago: "How can you read without the light on?"  Light provides clarity, light breaks through the shadows and allows us to see the dirt, grime, and muck that needs swept away.  If I left the light off, I could ignore the dust bunnies and water marks on my desk.  Just like if I avoid the "I AM" and stick with the "I WAS", I can avoid addressing those habits that expose a hard heart and sinful creature.  Yes, lets leave the lights off... I think we'll all be more comfortable with that.  

And finally for this entry, the Door.  I wish Jesus had used the idea of a Window instead of a door, if I can continue to speak honestly.  Windows are much easier to deal with because for most of the year I leave them "as is."  When the weather gets nice in the spring I open one or two around the house to let the breeze in.  When it gets too hot, or is too cold, I close them up and ignore for a few months.  AND, I can throw some blinds and curtains over the windows... that gives me the freedom to ignore them further!  Doors on the other hand, well, there's no ignoring the doors.  We have doors on every room.  We have to walk through doorways to get anywhere!  Want to go out to get the mail?  Yep, there's at least one door you need to traverse.  Using the bathroom?  Yep, the door takes on a huge significance there doesnt it?!  
Its either In or Out today.  Are you on the inside, or outside of the door? 

He is the "I AM", and that matters today, tomorrow, and forever.  Find Jesus today, in those times that seem as insignificant as turning on the light or turning a door knob.  No more "I WAS" living. 




April 1, 2013, 10:35 AM

A day better than any other



Good Monday Reader... 

First: Thank you to everyone who made this past weekend excellent!  From Friday's service to Sunday morning, we had a lot of people chip in extra time, and I appreciate you.  

Second:  What affect do the events we celebrated this past weekend have today?  Outside of the fact that it is April Fool's Day, this is a Monday just like the 51 other Mondays that will happen this year.  The fact that we serve a risen Savior changes everything.  It must change everything.  Otherwise the power of the resurrection is limited to a once a year event, much like the 4th of July.  

Thats it for this entry.  Does the resurrection change anything in your life?  Are you living as if death has been defeated?  Because when we KNOW that death was defeated, what is there to be afraid of? 

 

chris




March 18, 2013, 9:06 AM

what color am I supposed to wear today?



Good "Day After St. Pat's" Day Readers! 

I am always impressed by the sheer volume of green that arises out of people's closets on odd holidays like St Patrick's day.  I mean, do we really hold on to that green (and I mean GREEN) shirt just for this one day?  Probably.  I'm stunned by how many St Pat's themed KU shirts I saw for sale and on display on people this weekend as well.  I mean, are you going to wear that any OTHER day but March 17th?  Probably not.  

What is encouraging about it though is this:  everyone agrees that green is the color of choice that day.  You could see it in Church yesterday, as there was more green than any color present.  Some even went so far as to accessorize with green goodies.  I remember the crazy volume of ugly Christmas sweaters that seemed to occupy my high school teacher's closets...  Those had to take up a good 1/8th of the closet, just for one week or two of the year, but thats a whole different post.  

My message is simple, and yes, it relates to the odd habit of wearing green on St. Pat's.  Why cant we coordinate ourselves to show other aspects of our lives as well as we do our ownership of green clothing once a year?  There was no denying what day it was yesterday.  Between the green dye and the shamrock headbands, leprauchaun socks, etc... there could be no confusion.  We were all advertising the fact that it was March 17th, and we're proud of it.  

What else can we advertise so clearly as the Body of Christ?  I'd like to see things like compassion and acceptance worn as proudly as a green tie on March 17th.  I'd love to see us wear acts of grace and forgiveness as willingly as we wear ugly Christmas sweaters to that office party a week before Christmas.  Can we show the world that we love them wholly and completely despite the baggage and guilt as well as we accessorize to match obscure holidays?  

This is not a guilt message.  I like that there is enthusiasm and joy associated with special days.  Dont lose that wonder and happiness.  But be aware of the message we're sending on the days in between!  

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

This goes beyond wardrobe choices.  Obviously.  Clothing yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience cannot be summed up in one T-shirt, regardless of who's face is on it.  It can be summed up, though, with a life lived following Christ.  Wear these types of clothes to work, school, home, and everywhere in between.  

Be as proud of your compassion, kindness, etc... as you are that green shirt with the shamrocks and that really ugly Christmas sweater.  

 

chris




March 11, 2013, 10:38 AM

Setting the Bar a Little Lower.



Good Day Reader. 

This week's sermon was a hard pill to swallow......for me.  As I was presenting the story of The Mediocre Samaritan, my brain was stuck on all those moments when I did exactly like I was instructing otherwise.  I am especially conscious of our time spent in Romans 12; specifically verse 9.  "Dont Just Pretend to Love Others. . ."

SIgh.  My mind wanders throughout the Old Testament to places where God is fed up with the people and their meaningless sacrifices.  Sure, they were offering sacrifices to God, but their hearts werent in it.  They were going through the motions.  The act was there, but the meaning behind it was lost.  I feel much of the same way about the story of the Good Samaritan.  Its a great story, one that makes for an excellent class, sermon, and lesson.  We can talk about how bad the Priest and Levite were... because they should know better.  We can talk all day about just how good the Samaritan was.  It is really an amazing story.  But do we hang on to the message?  Do we get to the end, hear Jesus' command of "Now go and do likewise", and just move on with our lives?  

I do.  

Its a hard pill to swallow because Jesus' words are for me.  I've allowed myself to walk casually around the trainwrecks of people's lives, all the while thinking I had much more important things to do.  I've allowed myself to show curiosity, even surface level interest in service and doing things above and beyond for people... only to move on after the minimal amount of commitment. 

Everytime I hear the story of the Good Samaritan, I want to put myself in the place of the Samaritan, the one who stops to help.  I really want to, but unfortunately reality sets in and I've already moved on.  The message forgotten, the bar of expectations set a little lower with each passing step.  

It takes conscious effort for me to come close to the Christ-like standard I am called to.  It takes time, sacrifice, and momunmental levels of concentration and prioritization......and its worth every bit of that investment.  

My call to you, the reader, is to be an intentional blessing on those people who are beaten up by life.  Left stripped bare and lying on the side of the highway of life.  Seek them out.  Give sacrificially.  Then look around for someone to share the message with (not in a self-righteous way).  Share the message of sacrifice, giving, loving, and compassion.  

Live this message:  Now go and do likewise.  

 

chris




March 4, 2013, 11:25 AM

A good tree? Or a dead tree?



Hello Reader! 

So I'm going to try and eloquently explain why I left yesterday's sermon (3/3/13) with the challenge to "not be warts or blisters on the body of Christ."  Yes, I understand there really is no other place to go to try and make warts and blisters eloquent... but I'm going to give it a shot.  

We must be a body of believers that is working; much like a tree, with all its roots, bark, branches, leaves, and even the nuts.  When a tree is working, all aspects of the body are engaged.  The branches are stretching and growing and offering new places for leaves to reach the Sun.  The roots are digging deeper and deeper, searching for springs and sources of life giving sustinance.  The bark strengthens and grows around the tree, protecting and shading the fragile interior.  Through the seasons of growth the nuts and seeds are developing so they can strike new ground when the time comes around for new growth.  

Where are you in this process?  What place can you be found in the lifecycle of the tree? Because if a tree isnt growing, its dying.  There is no halfway about it.  There are intricicies to the lifecycle of the church that cannot be relegated to my simple illustration of the tree, but the essence is the same.  We are either growing or we're not.  Think about it, how easy is it to identify a tree that isnt growing?  Its simple really, because there are no leaves, the branches are brittle, the bark is stripping off.  

As we take some time this week following through with the challenge to identify our place in the body, we must be aware of whether or not we are part of a living and growing body, or one that is stagnant.  As we represent Jesus to this world (we are called the Body of Christ afterall), what image are we offering?  Does our Jesus extend his arms in love from all corners of the congregation?  Does he run to the aid of the lonely and mourning?  Do the roots of the Church ground themselves in the power of God's Word or in the influence of our desires and wishes?  

Find your place in the body of Christ.  Be honest.  If you can only identify ways that you take from the body without offering anything in return, you have become a tumor.  Tumors take.  Tumors decay.  The church, the body of Christ has enough tumors.  We need branches that will reach.  We need leaves that bask in the light of the sun.  We need roots that dive deep into the Word.  We need some bark that shields the young, allowing them to nurture and grow.  We need our people to be active and involved.  Otherwise we're just lumber, ready to be cut down and thrown into a fireplace.  

 

yep, a tree is much more eloquent than warts and blisters.  

chris

 




February 25, 2013, 10:56 AM

Practically speaking, or practically ignoring?



Good Day Reader!  Time for another blog post recapping and adding some thoughts from Yesterday's sermony-type thoughts.  

Who wants to be loved in a mediocre fashion?  Who wants their spouse to half-heartedly commit to a life together?  Is there anyone out there seeking a friendship that hurts and bleeds them dry?  How many want to see world hunger kind of solved, but not totally?  

I dont think anyone would admit to any of these publically, or on record.  We are not built that way.  We are not built to accept the mediocre, even if we unfortunately fall into it over and over again. 

Imagine with me, if we could, apply the concept of "mediocre" to God's pursuit of us in some popular Bible stories.  

Imagine the mediocre actions of God in Egypt.  What would have happened if God had given up on his people at the first sign of complaining?  They'd be stuck at the edge of the Red Sea, see that in front of them and Pharaoh's army charging up behind...  Insert the complaing and griping here, and boom, God does nothing.  If God wasnt passionate in the pursuit of His people, he could have left them right there, stuck between the Sea and an Army waiting for them to shoosh their complaining.  

What if God didnt take the time to seek out Noah and protect him with the long term plan of the Ark?  What if God didnt stop Abraham's arm from completing its arc and actually sacrificing Isaac? What if David's first shot had missed its mark on Goliath?  What if God really had removed "the cup" from Jesus, and we had no cross or empty tomb?  

Church, there is no halfway to God's pursuit of us, God's desire to know us.  There is only God going all in because he really, really likes you on top of his eternal love for the earth.  

We can no longer allow ourselves to go halfway in our pursuit of a godly life, in pursuit of being Christ's Ambassadors.  There is no halfway.  I want to call on my inner geek and quote Yoda from Star Wars:  "Do or Do Not.  There is no Try."  

 

No more mediocre.  No more halfway.  

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February 18, 2013, 9:45 AM

Mediocre Relationships to the Rescue!!



Good Day Reader! 

I had the pleasure of officiating a wedding this past weekend.  It is always an honor to be asked to take part in the first steps of a couple's life together.  Its always exciting because, despite all the activity going on around them and the detail oriented people pushing this way and that, the wedding and marriage is all about passion and love for the couple.  I guess it may happen, but I dont think there are many weddings that are based on the mediocre desire to get married and a mediocre commitment to spend a lifetime together.  I'm betting the passion shown during a wedding hardly ever lies in the realm of mediocre.  

So... because I'm a preacher and I have to ask these questions:  Are you ok with a mediocre relationship with Christ and His Church?

NO, this is not a plea for better attendance and better giving.  That is better left to guilt trips and mediocre sermons.  This is a question that goes deeper than those surface level indicators of Spiritual Health.  I'm afraid too many Churches are topped off with folks content with mediocre passion, mediocre dedication, mediocre allegiance, and mediocre intentions to live intentionally.  Church, when will we ever call on mediocre ANYTHING to save ANYTHING? 

Moses was driven from Egypt (yes, a lot of that was based on his own impulsiveness and anger issues), set in the desert for a few decades with some sheep, then finally approached to be God's delivery man.  It took some convincing, with some bold arguments by Moses, but he bought in.  Moses went all in, taking the plan back to his Father-in-Law (can you imagine how that conversation went???   "Yeah, so....God talked to me......through a burning bush."  "No, it wasnt really a burning bush, it was a bush that was on fire but not burning..."  No, I dont know how he did that..."  "Wait, lets stay on task... GOD spoke to me, and he's sending me back to Egypt."  "Yes, the bush was fine afterward..."  SIGH.)

On the way to Egypt, with perhaps the biggest task ever placed on one man (outside of Jesus saving ALL OF US!!!), Moses stops for the night.  Turn to Exodus 4: 24 - 26.  God shows up........to KILL MOSES!!!  WHOA!!  Isnt this the guy that God just commissioned?  Isnt this the guy that God endorsed?  Yep.  And he was about to die.  

Why?  Because he went from "all in" to "mediocre."  Moses failed to obey one tiny command, and it very nearly cost him his life.  Thanks to Zipporah and her quick thinking, we still have Charlton Heston playing Moses and not Aaron in "The Ten Commandments."  

Now, I'm not calling you out saying God is on his way to kill anyone because of a mediocre obedience.  God's justice will be served in time, with a heavy dose of the Grace of Jesus thrown in.  What this story does for me is attack that part of me that wants to dismiss the little things that will make some of the biggest differences in my faith, belief, and obedience.  At no point does mediocre cut it.  Mediocre doesnt make me a  better husband, father, friend, brother, son, or preacher.  

Switching illustrations quickly before I wrap things up:  I've watched an excellently made, two part series about one of the best rock bands around this past weekend.  Its a chronicle of their beginnings before joining the band, their eventual break-up, then the wildly successful reunion 14 years later.  What caught my attention from the get-go was the sheer passion and fire they had to be the absolute best.  The hours of rehearsal, the months of perfecting a sound before it was even considered good enough to be added to a record.  Mediocre didnt cut it.  And if mediocre was allowed, we would not have a single song, record, or tune we know so well from this band.  

Take some time and look for the mediocre you've allowed.  Yep, that includes those things like your giving habits and attendance... but it also includes prayer, study, trust, forgiveness, peacemaking, compassion, and service.  Its a long road ahead of us, but when we get together out of passion and a fire to succeed, it will be a profitable day for the kingdom! 

 

chris

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February 11, 2013, 11:28 AM

Where do we begin again?



Good Day Reader! 

Congratulations are in order for regular attenders at Red Bridge.  We've finished the Nehemiah series, built a wall, completing a major task! Think about what that felt like to the people of Jerusalem.  100 years of rubble, mess, and open defenses.  No gates, nothing to stop the arrows, chariots, spears, and feet of any army willing to throw something their way.  This had to build, at the very least, their confidence.  As I stated yesterday, we could very well end the story here... Watch Nehemiah walk away into the sunset.  Hollywood would have left it here, maybe shown families hugging each other on top of the wall, with no clue as to what comes next. 

Unfortunately, Nehemiah chapters 7 - 13 exist.  Attention is turned from the completion of the wall to the rubble that exists inside the city.  We've built the shell, now we have to take care of whats on the inside.  The wall could keep people out, and keep people who are inside safe, but where do those people on the inside sleep, eat, and gather?  

I think this story is backwards.  Unfortunately, my input was not taken into consideration when compiling and coordinating the building process.  Of course, I have no real concept of what an ancient city without a wall to protect itself is like, or susceptible to.  I think the inside needs to change before anything can really happen on the outside.  At least thats true when it comes to us.  

There is this mantra out there that you can "Fake it Til You Make it."  Apparently, if your heart isnt into something, you can act like it is until everyone either accepts it or your heart has a change of tune.  Thats a dangerous road to take in the realm of Faith and Belief.  I think a lot of Christians these days have that type of model in use.  Sunday morning looks all pretty, put together, and "holy."  While the rest of the week is indiscernable from the rest of society.  

Church, if we're going to move forward we have to know where change and growth begins.  It does not come from a program, it does not come from a self-help book, it does not come from perfect attendance.  It comes from the heart of the believers.  It begins when the hearts of those who make up the Body of Christ are living intentionally Christ-like, intentionally sacrificial, without having to "fake it."  

When we live that way we can gather and understand that we dont have it all together.  And thats ok.  We're here to support and love.  

As we work ahead on our Vision (being a Church that Loves and Serves), understand that we cant build ANYTHING until our hearts are aligned with the cross. 

chris



Comments

02-15-2013 at 4:39 PM
Jeff Hunzinger
I think you talked about fear last week. Sometimes we are paralyzed by the fear of change. What if I am vocal about my beliefs at work (pro-life, anti drug & alcohol, monagamy, working hard for our employer even if the company seems to be poorly run, commitment to family, no off color jokes, etc)? Will I be accepted? Will I be the butt of their jokes and conversation? Will I still have my job? Though it is hard, we do need to make small changes in how we profess our beliefs at work. Piece by piece you adopt these values publicly. Then people will be influenced by your actions. It may be dangerous to profess all your beliefs at once and risk being ostracized as a radical. But gradually, you can be known as a person who is different and has high standards (even if they don't agree with you). Ultimately, your contemporaries will respect you and follow you. If this technique is the "fake it until you make it" process, then I am OK with that. We must have a personal plan in life for effecting others. It is not enough just to be good people if we truly want to "reach out and save the lost". We have to be active and deliberate. But we also don't have to be like a locomotive and run everyone over. But as you state, it all must come from the heart. We have to know enough (from study) and be committed to this Christian life. We can be as excited about our faith as we can be about the KC Chiefs when they finally win and have 80,000 screaming fans yelling for them. Let's do it!! :)
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February 4, 2013, 11:38 AM

I aint scared...



How many times have you told yourself that?  "I aint scared...."  

It seems that the more we have to tell ourselves that we arent scared, the more scared we are.  Its like being at a party and that one guy is always trying to tell you just how funny he is... by saying "I'm Funny!!"  Its hard to believe the message when the person behind the message just doesnt fit with the words.  I could try and tell you all day that spiders dont scare me anymore... but I'd be lying.  While I am not dehibilitated by their presence, I am still squeemish in their presence.  Yes, even the real tiny ones or the ones at the zoo behind the thick glass walls.  

I am afraid.  Growing up, I was afraid of lots of irrational things.  I worried.  A Lot.  Why?  I dont know.  What about you?  Right now.  Are you worried?  Are you letting fear fester inside you, casting a shadow over everything else?  

As we have walked through the story of Nehemiah and his work in Jerusalem, fear was a major player in the development of the wall project.  There was fear of the neighbors, who werent keen on Jerusalem and the nation of Israel becoming a powerhouse again.  There were those on the inside who were benefiting from the rubble and distress.  They were afraid of their gravy train running off.  

Every time fear reared its head, Nehemiah was there with a positive, God-focused response.  

I know, this is from the whole "easier said than done" realm.  But what response do you have when fear creeps in?  Is it like me and my response to spiders? (which is to either kill kill kill, or run run run).  

The words of Nehemiah are heavy on my mind this week.  The leadership at Red Bridge have a grand task ahead of us as we cast our Vision for the Body of Christ here.  As we look over it now, it looks a whole lot like Nehemiah's task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  There is a lot of work to do, a lot of people to coordinate, and a God-directed task to achieve.  If we let ourselves be overcome with worry the building will be shut down and no amount of planning will overcome.  

Church, this week I want us to fall back to the words of Nehemiah if and when worry, fear, doubt, discouragement, depression, or ridicule set in: 

"Dont be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!"

Nehemiah 4:14

 

 




January 28, 2013, 10:30 AM

Where the rubber meets the road.



Good Day Reader!  This is that moment when reality sets in.  Why?  Because this is that moment when you become aware that the health, longevity, effectiveness, potential, and future of the Church is in your hands.  Literally.  No, seriously, this isnt some flowery advocation that is supposed to get you thinking.  Its all yours.  

So what are you going to do with it?  Liken it to a wad of clay.  If you set it down and think "I'll get back to that later...when I have the time."  Whats going to happen to it?  Its going to be hard, crusty, useless, and unmoldable when you eventually "get back to it."  The time to use the clay is NOW, when its fresh, when it can be shaped into something useful.  

Your work is a lot like that clay.  We must take advantage of opportunities in front of us while they are fresh.  Dont wait to address the problems around you until its convenient for you, or when you 'feel like it.'  God put you right where he needs you, right when he needs you.  Dont let the clay harden.  

Imagine if Nehemiah had pushed off his work with the rebuilding of Jerusalem for....say another 50 years.  I mean, the walls were already down for over 100 years prior... What the rush?  Well, he probably wouldnt have the relationship with the King, wouldnt have been able to secure funding and resources, wouldnt have been able to push the oppositiion away as easily, and he may not have even had a city to rebuild at all.  

 

What are you waiting for?  We've got a lot of dryed out and crusty ministry opportunities laying around.  We must open our eyes to the rubble around us.  Before its too late. 

 

 




January 21, 2013, 10:07 AM

Foundationally Speaking....


Good Day Reader.  

I have a long commute to work.  It takes me from my front door, on to the little sidewalk outside the front door, across the parking lot, onto the smaller sidewalk/entry at the church, through the East entrance of the Church, Up the stairs, down the hallway, around the corner, then through the main office and into my office.  Whew!  I'm worn out just typing all that!!!  I know, I know, its not a long commute.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it doesnt count as a 'commute' at all, more of a jaunt or hop-skip-and-a-jump.  BUT, no matter how long or short my commute is, I've got something I want to share about it.  

On EVERY trip to and from the house to the church I have gotten myself into a habit.  I look out the North windows on the hallway at the steeple on the Baptist Church across the street.  There's nothing very unusual about it, its tall and has a cross on the top.  What drew my eye first to this particular steeple, other than the need to occupy myself on the tedious trip from office to home, was the presence of a Red-Tailed Hawk that perched on the cross one afternoon.  

Its the perfect perch for a bird of prey, as it allows him a 360 degree view of the fields, lots, and hedgelines in this immediate area.  I imagine he has seen many a rodent scurry about to their doom from up there.  (thats as morbid as we get, dont worry).  Well, when I first saw the hawk perched on the cross I stopped and stared for a while.  I actually wondered if I had missed its placement up there and thought it might be a fake in order to keep pidgeons and other nuisances off of the roof of the church.  But he moved!  I found myself staring at the immobile bird, sitting on a cross, on top of a steeple for a good five minutes.  

Well, the Hawk (one time there were two on there, but I havent seen that happen again) is only there in the late afternoon, and not everyday...  But I still find myself looking up at the steeple.  Morning, evening, afternoon.  I caught myself doing so a couple weeks back and wondered why I was looking when I knew the hawk wasnt going to be there.  As my steps faltered and I had to catch myself.  I wasnt really looking for the hawk... there was something better that caught my eye:  the cross.  I realized I wasnt so much hoping to see a bird, what I was really looking for was the comfort of the cross.  

The comfort of the cross.  The foundation of my character, my career, my being.  It is the imagery of the cross that draws my eyes Northward every commute.  It is what I have built all my hopes on.  Yes, its a tool of torture and was the scene of the brutal murder of an innocent man.  But the comfort of the cross comes from the message my God sends me every time I see one:  "I really, really love you." Without that promise, without that image, without that sacrifice......things are dreary, hopeless, and all together lost.  There is no foundation that can stand the test of time like the Cross, and what it represents.  

Where do you have your footings set?  On what does your life settle?  Its obvious that many of us have our foundations set on earthly values, earthly priorities, and earthly pursuits.  I dont think I need to remind you that those things are failing, fleeting, and temporary.  Look at the opposition and attacks the Cross has endured!  Yet it stands, unchanged in its message.  

Find a cross somewhere you walk or drive by every day.  Find a cross that can remind you of God's dedication to you, your life, and most importantly your eternal life.  He likes you, he loves you, and he wants to meet you in heaven with high fives, fist bumps, and hugs.  

 

chris




January 14, 2013, 9:08 AM

The hardest part(s) of every project...



Good Morning Readers!!! (I'm assuming you were just chomping at the bit to read this as soon as I pushed the publish button this morning... if its afternoon or evening, well.... good afternoon or evening!!!)

There are two parts of a project that I really dont like... Setting up and Cleaning up.  Yeah, it comes down to this:  I really like the 'doing' portion of a task and really dont like setting up and cleaning up.  Painting is the worst for this.  With painting, setting up is 10 times worse than cleaning up... that is if you're doing it right.  You have to get the tape and meticulously tape all the edges so you have nice, straight, clean lines.  Then you need to get drop cloths down, and make sure the carpet is covered...  Then you have to get all your equipment and tools set up and paint cans opened.  It really is quite the task getting ready to paint.  THEN you have to clean everything up, which includes carefully folding the drop cloths (theres paint on there!!), pull the tape (paint on that too!), clean the brushes (Lotsa paint in those), and make sure it dries before you get to set the room back up.  

It may sound like I'm whining, but I'm not... I just want us to have that picture of preparation and clean up of a major project in our heads.  Imagine how Nehemiah felt when he finally got to Jerusalem after a LONG journey wondering just how bad things were going to be!!!  He went out for a ride in the dark to get a feel for just how bad things were........and I'm positive his heart sank.  I cannot imagine the sheer volume of details, preparation, planning, scheming, drawing, drafting, and motivating Nehemiah had to go through just to get things in order so the portions of the walls could be rebuilt.  It makes my head swim, and I wasnt there!!!

Through it all though, Nehemiah relied on the passion of the vision he had been given by God.  He understood that what God originates, God orchestrates.  Meaning, God was not going to give Nehemiah this great vision for a rebuilding project of epic proportion, then leave him flat on his own to figure out how to make it happen.  What God originates, God orchestrates.  

What is God originating in your life?  Where is God leading you in your daily quest to "Love God and Love people?"  Just like Nehemiah, we have to be constantly assessing our environment, constantly noting the condition of the walls and city around us.  God has placed us right where he needs us, what is he orchestrating in your life so that you can be a witness to his great love?  My challenge to the congregation this week was to make notes (yes, actual physical notes) about things around you everyday that need rebuilt.  Maybe its a relationship you see crumbling.  Perhaps there is a project that is completely overwhelming someone and you have the extra time to step in and get them back on their feet in the right direction.  Maybe you can offer the encouragement and support of someone who seems to be swimming against the current.  What about that person who seems so bogged down with what the world is throwing at them that they cant even lift their head under the weight of their own burdens?  

Our city is crumbling around us, and just like those folks in Jerusalem at the time, we need a reminder of the rubble and mess we're living in.  Nehemiah had to come through and gather everyone together and point out that they were living in a mess!  "JERUSALEM HAS BEEN DESTROYED AND OUR GATES LIE IN RUINS!!!"  I'm assuming this wasnt news to anyone, but the fact that nothing had been done about it in 100 years or so makes me believe that the people living in Jerusalem at the time went on with their daily lives ignoring the fact that things were a straight up mess!!!  

Church, we must open our eyes to the ruins around us and acquire the information available to be effective and powerful rebuilders of relationships, confidence, and compassion.  

We have a city, a nation, a world to rebuild through the vision God has given us:  Love God, Love People. 

 


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