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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. 

 




January 8, 2013, 3:08 PM

Assuming the Burden



Good Day Reader!  

Sorry I'm a day late with this... I got loaded down yesterday and it just didnt work out.  Hmmm, loaded down.  That sounds familiar... OH YEAH, the sermon on Sunday!!  (that was cheesy, I know and I'm sorry).  

Nehemiah, our sermon series Hero for the next few weeks, gives us much to think about.  He is not the typical character from a hero's tale, brought up through misery and pain to rise into glorious victory.  We dont get to meet him as a child, nor do we get to see any of the character forming plights of his growing years.  He shows up working in a highly respected and very lofty position:  cupbearer for King Artaxerxes (Art-a-zerks-sees).  What we get is a quick recap of Nehemiah, then jump right into the story.  He is told of the ruin around Jerusalem.  This should not  be surprising news, as Jerusalem was sacked many, many years before and has layed in ruins for most of that time.  Ezra had taken 50,000 Jews back home to get things in order but squabbling and shoddy faith split a few problems into too many to handle quickly.  The temple was rebuilt.......and thats about it.  

Nehemiah hears about the mess in Jerusalem and he inmediately takes the burden on as his own.  Now, because its in the Bible, we know that God needed Nehemiah specifically... but speaking in feigned ignorance, did Nehemiah HAVE to assume the burden of rebuilding Jerusalem as his own?  Weren't there other fine folks who could handle this?  Say someone ALREADY IN JERUSALEM!!!????  What about someone who wasnt aligned so closely to a King?  

Nehemiah heard the call of a job that needed done, and he did it.  Did he know how he was going to get the financing to do as such?  Nope.  Did he know where the skilled laborers would come from?  Nope.  Did he know that God wanted it done?  Yep.  So he did it. 

I cant get my mind off of Nehemiah's prayer in chapter 1.  The man pours it out on God, and uses that to shape his personal vision and plan to God's.  

I need you to take a look around your office space, your living room, kitchen, school hallways, rec center, etc... (wherever you show up on a regular basis).  What burden does God want you to assume from the people around you?  Is there a relationship that needs prayerful intervention?  Is there a simple invitation that needs to be extended to a church function where someone can meet godly people who care? 

God has you right where he needs you... we must be ready to catch his vision for those people (he wants them in Heaven just as much as he wants you) and assume that burden.  It is not a burden too heavy for anyone.  It is a burden that looks exactly like the one Jesus carried!

 

chris




December 31, 2012, 9:47 AM

What do we do at the end of the year again?



Oh Yeah, we reminisce and look back at the year that is fading away while optomistically looking ahead and whats to come.  Its a very strange time indeed.  Think about it, at no other point in the year are we so caught between whats ahead and whats behind (unless you have come to dread your birthday).  

So what does all that mean?  Well, typically people are disappointed with what has occured (or not occured) in the year past and make all these hardcore decisions to make sure they do happen in the coming year.  Its a very emotional and intense period for many.  Because its my job, I'm going to ask this question:  Is this really what God expects of us?  Does he really want us to coming up with an itemized list of what we think is important and needs accomplished this year?  Does he want an emotionally charged list that, in all reality, wont get done once the emotion of New Year's day fades (on January 2nd no less)?

Here is what I see God wanting from his people:  put your heart into it.   When you're walking into the workplace on a dreary Monday morning, put your heart into it.  When the bell rings for your first class of the week, put your heart into it.  When your coworker/neighbor/friend pours their heart out to you about something that is falling apart in their lives, put your heart into it.  When a menial task is laid in front of you that will only make one or two people's job easier, put your heart into it.  When your parents ask for help cleaning the house or need you to take out the trash because its overflowing and stinks to high heaven, put your heart into it.  

God needs a people, a Church, that is driven to Put their hearts into everything they're doing.  Spend some time in Colossians 3 this week.  There's a couple passages that I have written on my heart, both with the theme of putting my heart into whatever I'm doing, as if I'm doing it for God.  

2013 will look no different if the effort you give looks the same as 2012.  Your neighborhood will look no different and will not hear the good news of Jesus Christ if you dont put your heart into it.  Your workplace will not improve this year if you dont put your heart into it.  Your friends, your relationships, your employees, your employers, your marriage, your finances, etc... etc...  If you want them to improve this year, then put a little heart into it.  Pour some compassion into places that havent seen much.  Pour forgiveness into a relationship that you dont think deserves it.  Bring peace into a conflict that you may or may not have started.  Undivide your heart, meaning quit serving God and looking the part at times of the week and living otherwise the rest of the time.  

Church, those empy seats arent going to fill themselves.  Those broken relationships will not just magically repair.  Those friends who seek answers in all the wrong places will not just turn to God on their own...  They need someone to put their heart into it this year.  

 

I'm really looking forward to our upcoming series through Nehemiah, which I've entitled "Catching a Vision."  Nehemiah poured his heart and soul into a need, and history was changed from that point on.  

This year instead of resolutions or promises, try putting a little heart into things and see what happens!!

 

chris




December 24, 2012, 10:39 AM

Its CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!



WOO HOO!!! ITS CHRISTMAS!!!  I love the leadup to Christmas Day.  It seems like everywhere you look people are just ready to celebrate with their family, or are wearing Christmas-y hats and sweaters.  There is an expectant vibe to the air among children.  Its just an amazing time of year!  I personally cannot wait to just simply BE with my family tonight and tomorrow.  Its a special time that is hard to replicate.  

There is something that I feel that I need to warn you about though:  December 26th is coming.  Soon.  The rest of this blog is going to focus on that unfortunate reality that no matter how great your Christmas spirit is, December 26th is almost here.  

Yes, the day after Christmas:  the most universally disappointing day of the year.  Sure, our Canadian friends have "Boxing Day" (which isnt nearly as exciting as it sounds).  But generally speaking, December 26th is just a big ole let down.  The toys are played with, the decorations are officially out of season, and now we have to clean all that stuff up.  Its like we get to the peak of the mountain, stand there for a few minutes, then pack up and walk right back down.  

 

I want to point us towards another moment of "let down" in the biblical text... Turn over to Exodus 19.  

The people of Israel were experiencing something akin (although very much more dynamic) to a Christmas morning feel.  God has descended on the mountain by which they are camped.  God has shown up!  They had to spend three days purifying themselves, in other words, this was a really big deal.  Everything happens, and God arrives... and God has a message for the people... and he delivers that message... (can you feel the build up?)...  and his message is????    

GO.           (Deuteronomy 1: 6 - 8)

Wait?  You want us to leave?  You want us to keep walking?  We just got out of captivity, let us breathe for a second!   

Nope, the message was to GO,  you've had long enough on the mountain.  God wasnt focused on the mountaintop experience, he was focused on the journey ahead of them.  There were battles that needed fought.  There was a land that needed occupied.  The story we right should have some highlights, some mountaintop views... but the rest of our story is written in the valleys, along the paths, in the battles, and on the journey.

While we have some excellent mountaintop experiences, and those are always exciting, we have to keep moving, keep fighting the darkness around us.   Enjoy Christmas, enjoy the mountaintop.  But dont be surprised when December 26th shows up and needs us to get right back into the journey of pushing the darkness of this world back.  

Merry Christmas Church!

chris

 

 

 




December 17, 2012, 9:23 AM

The waiting is the hardest part.



Good Monday Readers... 

Lets be clear:  I hate waiting.  Traffic lights, grocery lines, two day shipping.... all of them: ugh.  This is a pretty serious flaw, and one that has actually improved in me with age.  However, I still get impatient, and I still get grouchy when forced to wait my turn.  If I'm the only one with that problem, I give you my permission to skip reading the rest of the article and move on with your busy day!  

For those of us who stuck around past that last sentence, thank you for being honest.  As a kid I remember being blown away by how much I had to wait... and how focused I was on things that were very far off.  I would set my eyes on Christmas break........in August.  "Only 5 more months.... I can do it!"  Then I would be driven nuts by how long 5 months actually was.  It was worse thinking about summer break and planning for it in Mid-October.  The hardest part about dreaming about Summer in Michigan is that October through March look exactly the same weather wise: cold and gray.  The weather just seemed to pile on to the waiting.  I used to think 8 or 9 months was an eternity.  Summer just couldnt come fast enough. 

Take that line of thinking and jump back a few thousand years with me to Egypt. Let me put this very lightly:  the peope of Israel had "Summer Break" on their minds..........for generations.  There was no relief in sight.  Grandparents were telling grandchildren and great-grandchildren about how God was going to deliver them and establish them as a great and prosperous nation.  I imagine there was a wee bit of skepticism about grandpa's flights of fancy.  The people knew God had a plan for them, they knew there would be an end to their plight.  What they didnt know was when, or how they would be delivered.  All they had to do while waiting was to work... and know that God had a plan.  It wasnt until Moses showed up again that the waiting paid off.  (I'd imagine they were a little disappointed with God's plan... after all, Moses didnt show up with an army or a bazooka... he showed up with a stick.  It wasnt even a pointy stick!! But thats a different blog for a different day!)

From the "Easier Said than Done" department:  this sounds a lot like us these days.  We're waiting, and while the waiting is hard, we must know that God has a plan for delivering us.  The Israelites had nothing left but to work hard and obey the Laws God had for them.  Where I find hope is that even during slavery and captivity, the Hebrew nation grew and grew and grew and was blessed.  Was it "Promised Land" blessing?  No.  But God was still active.  

While your life is no where near the level of slavery and captivity that we speak of in Genesis... we are all waiting for our Deliverer.  Come Lord Jesus!  What happens in the meantime is this:  KEEP WORKING!!!  KEEP FIGHTING!!  KEEP GOD'S LAWS!!!  We must live the life intentioned for us as we walk in the muck and mire of this fallen world.  Bad things are going to happen, and no amount of righteous living will make all the bad things go away.  Cancer will still beat us.  Divorce will still divide us.  Financial ruin will still make our hairs turn grey in worry.  But how we respond to those events changes.  How we respond to a world so desperately in need of Hope, Peace, and Salvation changes.  

We must be good at waiting.  Summer break is coming.  Jesus will return.  In the mean time:  work hard, and keep our eyes focused on what matters most. 

be blessed and be a blessing this holiday season Church. 
chris

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December 10, 2012, 11:11 AM

But I like my chair...



Good Day Reader! 

So yesterday's sermon title was "MOVE!!!"  Its not often that I will admit this, but I immediately regret preaching that sermon.  Sigh.  You know why?  Because I like my chair, my big comfy recliner.  It has a lamp next to it, a table on which lie coasters for my tasty beverages, and it can hold my iPad AND a snack AND the remote at the same time.  About 10 feet in front of my chair is a television.  The trap is complete... all I have to do is walk in the living room and SNAP, I'm ensared like the tiger in Swiss Family Robinson.  I'm netted like Chewbacca, Luke, Han and the Droids in Return of the Jedi.  I need a sign that says "ITS A TRAP!!!!" right above the chair, because once I'm in.......I dont want to get up.  

Now, I take you to another of my favorite pastimes, Eating.  I got a fortune cookie that, for the first and last time, had a fortune in it that stuck with me.  It said:  "Many a false step is taken while standing still."  It blew my mind then, and it continues to push me to this day.  

Our third stop of the day is our nicely apportioned auditorium.  Its comfy, cozy, with padded seats and indirect lighting.  Its familiar.  Its a place where we know we belong, especially when we're surrounded by people we love.  But it has too much in common with my comfy chair.  It gets us sitting still for long periods of time...  I'm not saying what we do in the auditorium is not important!!!  What I am saying is that we cannot let ourselves think that those hours of sitting still fulfill our role as the Body of Christ.  Its the movement after the encounter that defines us.  Its the action of our lives lived within a world reeling from pain, and searching for answers that defines us.  Its the movement that exhibits our belief.  

Go back and spend some time with Micah 6: 1 - 8.  Answer the question in your life of What God Wants from YOU... See where Justice, Mercy, and Humility need to show themselves.  Understand that in order to accomplish Justice, Mercy, and Humility we have to DO, LOVE, and WALK.  

If you've met Jesus and things look the same now as they did before... something's wrong.  BIG TIME.  An encounter with the Savior ALWAYS resulted in action, movement, and change.  If your life, or worse your faith, has become sedentary things have to change.  Shake things up this week and DO, LOVE, and WALK!!! 

 

chris




December 3, 2012, 9:39 AM

But I like to Slouch......



Hello again! 

As I sit here typing, looking back up at the title that I just gave this entry, I cant help but notice that I am hunkered down in my chair with stooped shoulders and a good curve to my back.  I do not have good posture when I'm sitting at my computer.  In fact, lt me go through all of the areas where I think I need to improve my posture:  walking, running, sitting, standing, eating, sleeping, and maybe even leaning.  If I dont make myself aware of my posture, I'm going to slouch.  So, I'd like you to take a second and stretch out and then sit back down with a nice straight back.  Doesnt that feel better?  (yeah, I'm still in the same typing position... do as I say, not as I type).  

Now that you're sitting upright and breathing easier, we need to remind ourselves of the other kind of posture.  The one that communicates much more than "I dont stand up straight."  Remember this illustration from yesterday:  Men, which should you believe when approaching this situation:  A woman you love is standing tall, arms firmly crossed.  Her eyebrows are furled and there is only a line visible for a mouth.  When you naturally ask "Whats wrong, Honey?"  She replies: "NOTHING!"   Should you believe the words or the posture?  

If you guessed the words... you're probably single.  Of course you need to read the message she is sending you in her posture.  The body language is communicating that you are in trouble and you need to get to apologizing for everything you've done wrong... ever.  

Church, our body language communicates in a very similar way.  We have all the right words:  "WELCOME!!" or "JESUS LOVES YOU!!" or even "GOD BLESS YOU!"  Does our posture communicate the same message?  Do we have arms outstretched?  Do we offer helping hands?  Are we willing to get on their level in order to bring them into a closer relationship with Jesus?  If we use these words of welcome and greeting but then completely disengage from them to sit with our friends, what does that communicate?  When someone shares a prayer request or a need, do we acknowledge it with one of our "churchy" responses (oh, I'll pray for you) then walk away unphased and disengaged?  

I'm not trying to lay on the guilt, but this is too good of an opportunity to not use as an example.  At the Thanksgiving banquet on November 18th, I came down as one of the last people to join the meal after the morning services.  The fellowship hall was FULL!!  People were genuinely enjoying themselves and the atmosphere was truly thankful and festive.  However, at one table there was, sitting alone, a visitor.  She wasnt looking around, she was quietly concentrating on her plate of food.  Church, what were we communicating to her at that very moment?  Yes, our posture made us cold and unwelcoming while we were using words of thanksgiving and gratitude.  

Take some time to read John 8: 1 - 10 and Luke 19: 1 - 11 this morning, afternoon, or evening.  Dont just read it casually though, use your eyes.  SEE what Jesus did, SEE how Jesus used his posture to protect, heal, and show compassion.  After his posture communicated his intent, he was able to use words that cut to the core.  

Its time for the Body of Christ to use its body language to send a message of compassion, welcome, and love.  That requires us to stoop a little more, bend our backs in service a little more, and get our hands dirty as we grow the Kingdom.   

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November 26, 2012, 9:19 AM

Has Thanksgiving changed anything?



Good Week After Thanksgiving, Church Family!!!

As I reflect on the events of the past week, I have to wonder aloud: "Why did I eat so much?"  Its truly astounding how we dont catch the fact that we're full until we've devoured our third helping of everything on the main table and taken a turn at the dessert table!  But dont get me wrong, I'm THANKFUL!!!  There is nothing quite like eating that first piece of Pumpkin Pie (lathered with Cool Whip, of course) after craving it for a solid three months prior!!  

I hope your Thanksgiving break was about more than food though.  Its an exceptional day when even the talking heads and personalities on television are sharing that which with they are thankful. Amidst the parades, football, and expectations for grand dinners there is an air of family, and gratitude.  Its a lot like the peaceful vibes we get around Christmas.  And just like Christmas, the Thanksgiving season comes to an end.  

What comes next?  Where do we go from here?  

I hate to say this, but I'm sick of turkey.  Yes, I'm turkeyed out.  So I dont want to step back into another Thanksgivingly season anytime soon, unless we move to Pizza as our honorary meal.  So option number 1 of having an official Thanksgiving celebration every week is out.  What does that leave us with?  I guess what comes after Thanksgiving is up to us.  

Take some time to run back through Luke 17: 11 - 19 this week.  This was our sermon text this past Sunday.  Its a very Sunday School friendly lesson in being thankful.  But Church, this lesson goes way beyond Sunday School.  For too many, our worship and gratitude stops at simply saying "Thank You Jesus... You know, for all the great things you did for us..."  And then we move on. The gratitude doesnt change us, it doesnt  have a lingering affect on our attitudes, it doesnt seem to matter beyond those two words.  

Church, what comes after Thanksgiving is ACTION, SERVICE, and WORSHIP.  Being grateful is step number one in a lifelong journey lived at the feet of Jesus.  Just like the one leperous Samaritan who came back, our gratitude must lead us in the opposite direction of our selfish initiatives and back to the feet of the one we want to serve and emulate.  

 

What comes after Thanksgiving? Thats up to you.  

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November 19, 2012, 9:53 AM

I'd rather be stuck in Egypt...



Good Monday Church Family!

Thank You for an excellent morning of worship yesterday, and much thanks for the outstanding dinner afterward!  I'm still recovering from the onslaught of Thanksgivingly sustinance.  Remember though, that being outwardly grateful and thankful extends far beyond the month of November!!!

I was reminded yesterday that the sermon topic fell in line with one of the major story threads of the O.T. (Thanks Mike!!!), and I want to expound on that a little here.  Church, you just have to love the Israelites ("Bless Their Hearts").  They give us so much hope and present such a convicting story line.  Unfortunately, most of the hope they provide is the fact that we probably cant do things as backwards and goofy as they do.  I mean, honestly, they had God showing up in plain sight (pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, smoke and thunder on a mountaintop to name a few) and they still managed to gripe, complain, and whine themselves into 40 years of the best desert lifestyle.  This is on top of the display of God's power and majesty through the 10 plagues thrown upon the nation of Egypt that allowed them to walk, yes walk, out of Egypt after generations of captivity and slavery. 

Through it all, God understood the difficulty ahead; He understood how drastic a change it was going to be; and He knew the people were going to be in for a rough road.  Check out Exodus 13: 17 - 18. God made their path not the shortest, but the one of lesser resistance because he didnt want them whining immediately to go back to Egypt.  God's foresight here is truly profound (as it always is).  He understood the anxiety level the people were going through moving from slaves to freedom to the ultimate claiming of the Promised Land.  Its what they wanted and were crying out for for generations, but when it comes to the reality of freedom, independance, facing the "unknown", they proved themselves unprepared!  

So God saves them from battle right away and leads them to the edge of the Red Sea.  Read Exodus 14:10 - 12.  What God tried to avoid happening, happens.  "Why did you take us out of Egypt?  There were more than enough graves to bury us all there!!"    This thread continues throughout Isreal's travels, practically right up to the moment Jesus arrives (then afterward too).  They cry for deliverance, receive their freedom, then whine themselves back into trouble. 

Church, we fall into the same trap dont we?!  We cry for freedom in Christ... "FORGIVE US!!" "Deliver us from this world's grip!" And then we fall captive again to the lifestyle of sin, temptation, and indulgence.

God has heard our cries, he has paved the way to forgiveness, deliverance, and salvation.  And we get pulled back again and again by our reluctance to embrace our freedom in Christ and the lifestyle it creates in us.  

Does freedom in Christ mean that everything turns rosey and happy?  Nope.  Cancer is still cancer.  Divorce is still divorce.  Financial trouble is still financial trouble.  How we respond to what the world throws at us is what changes.  Or is what should change.  When we rid ourselves of the anxiety of separating ourselves from this world's desires, we allow ourselves to see things for what they really are: a temporary blip on our way to something greater!  This world is not our home... This battle you're facing is not the end... The hardships, while genuinely difficult to bear, are only going last a little while...  Something better is coming, the Promised Land is near.  

We have been freed from sin, freed from the world's greed. Does your life, do your words, do you reactions, do you friendships all reflect that?  Do we have that glazed over look on our faces that comes from being focused on things outside the pull of this world?  

I'm thinking Heaven sounds a lot more appealing than Egypt.  

 

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November 12, 2012, 10:18 AM

Did Jesus really NOT say that?!



Good Monday Readers!

Yesterday morning we walked through some of the changes and growth that we see develop in everyone's favorite Gospel friend, Peter.  From the very beginning of his calling Peter displays both raw dedication and the ability to believe Jesus' words at their most basic of levels (and the uncanny ability to overrule all of that in a fit of emotion!!).  

When Jesus calls him from the most amazing catch of fish he had ever seen, he interpreted "Follow Me" as "Follow Me".  I'm pretty sure you and I would hold fast in our shoes these days and have a list of questions to ask Jesus concerning all of the plans he left out of those two words.  We've become a society that questions everything, which in a way is a very good thing... but when it comes to the commands of Jesus, (who we must remember is the Son of God, and ALL authority was given to him), we need to throw those questions out the window and take him at his word.  

Take a tour back to John 6: 60 - 69 this week...  Really, go grab your Bible and get there.  Jesus confuses the people, disgusts them even by his analogy of his Body and Blood.  Many are so disgusted that they walk away.  They didnt wait around for the explanation, they didnt wait for the point to be laid clear, they just walked away.  

Jesus then turns to his closest friends and ask them "Are you leaving too?"

Church, we must be driven to the level of Peter's response here:  "Where else would I go Jesus?  Who else can compare to you?"

There is nothing that can compare to Jesus.  Nothing that speaks with his authority.  Nothing that lasts.  Nothing that trumps his Love.  Nothing that shakes his dedication to you.  Nothing that can hold a candle to the way he thinks about you.  

Yet we run.  And we turn to the world for our identity.  We turn to our peers to identify ourselves.  We turn to our wallets, we turn to our jobs, our titles, our status... 

This week, close your eyes, ears, and hearts to the voice of the world and its attempts to try and hand you an identity based on its standards.  Turn your eyes, ears, and hearts to the voice that cries out from the Cross, from the Empty Tomb, and from the realm of the Kingdom of God... its saying "Follow Me..."  

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November 5, 2012, 11:00 AM

Default???



Howdy!

So I got to test my default setting yesterday afternoon... Sigh.  

If you dont know what I'm referencing, let me offer an explanation.  Everything has a default setting.  That is, the setting with which it was created.  Your calculator has a Default setting.  Your computer has a default setting.  If things go wrong, you hit the reset button or throw in the install disk and things are magically transported backwards to the setting with which it was sent out of the factory.  

YOU have a default setting.  However, those settings have gotten messed with, adjusted, tweaked, turned, and shifted based on your collective experience with culture, faith, family, and the general environment in which you operate.  Through it all though, you have a core identity, a core piece of who you are...   What is that default setting?

Now, I know what it is supposed to be.  Remember all those Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5?  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control!! That SHOULD be your default setting.  Compassion, tenderness, general good feelings towards your fellow human inhabitants.  

Insert the neighbor.  Insert the dramatic testing of my default.  Insert my failure to respond with ANY of the Fruit of the Spirit.  Insert my hand hitting my forehead (as many times as you think necessary).  Yes, I preached on this very thing yesterday morning.  Yes, I proved my inability to act Christ-like mere hours afterward.  I'm in need of your forgiveness.  

My response?  I raised my voice back, asking what I thought were reasonable questions... but really I was defensive and accusatory.  I let my default setting of selfishness and anger burst forth.  I need to hit the reset button.  I need to answer the question that Jesus asks Peter in John 21.  "Do You Love Me?" 

I wasnt feeding sheep, I was shoveling manure.  All because my default setting was skewed.  

Church, fellow readers, friends, strangers:  Time for a reset.  Its time for our community to know us as Believers who have dropped this world's nets and base our identity in Christ alone... dead to everything else.  

 

In related news, I'm looking at getting the sermons at RBCOC recorded and posted here ASAP.  Not that I think you're overly interested, but it might be nice to connect these Monday Morning thoughts with the sermon that precedes them.  

 

Stay Salty Church... Stay Salty. 

 


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