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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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