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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. 

 




October 29, 2012, 10:19 AM

New Beginnings...


Good Day Church! 

I just want to echo the comments I was able to make Sunday and say "Thank You" for trusting me enough to work with you as Preaching Minister!  I want to work hard and make this a long-lasting and productive relationship!

As far as some inspirational thoughts coming through this avenue, I figure I will use this space to remind you of some of the past Sunday's challenges as well as throw in some content that maybe didnt make the cut in the final sermon edit!!  Yes, this is the Blu-Ray version of the Sunday morning sermon!

I mentioned yesterday that I have grown uncomfortable with being labeled as "Christian" because that term means so many different things.  From Donald Miller in "Blue Like Jazz":

 

In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn’t do it, and moreover, that I didn’t want to defend the term. He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told him yes. ‘Then why don’t you want to defend Christianity?’ he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them, the term Christianity meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won’t do it. Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word Christianity, and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God

I prefer that we call ourselves "Christ-Followers" and act accordingly!  Take some time to read back through Luke 5: 1 - 11 this week and watch what happens when Jesus simply asks these guys to "Follow Me."  They drop their nets and follow!!  Whats even more impressive is that they drop a career making catch of fish, two of them leave their dad with said catch of fish, and walk away.  This catch would have fed their families (both through the fish themselves and the sheer volume of cash income from selling them) for a while!  Not to mention the FISH STORIES they would be able to tell! This was the catch legends are born from!  This is the kind of catch that can shape a reputation, an identity in the fishing industry...

And they walked away.  

 

This week, what is something that you have been dragging around in your attempt to follow Jesus? The first disciples dropped everything to walk alongside Jesus.  Is there something that has held you back from following as you should?  Is your reputation keeping you from walking alongside Jesus compassionately?  Is your desire for a fatter wallet keeping you from sacrificial living?  Is a grudge or argument keeping you from loving someone the way Jesus does?  

We are called to be netless believers.  Drop it and walk away.  

 

chris

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