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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


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