Sunday, May 31, 2009

You Don't Have What It Takes

This morning we started a new sermon series: You Don't Have What It Takes. This week's message is You Don't Have What It Takes To Be Good Enough.

The big idea was this simple truth of life: God accepts us through Christ. We are no longer living for His approval, but from His approval.

Listen (You need QuickTime)

Read Study Guide

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Are Not Good Enough

Here is the outline for my sermon for this Sunday. It's the first sermon in our new series: You Don't Have What it Takes. Churches around the country have been doing this series for the last couples years. I don't know if Mike Breaux or Craig Groeschel is the creator of the series. Either way, it is good stuff. I hope to see you Sunday.

Objective: To reveal the areas in our lives where we feel unworthy and to find confidence in God’s unconditional love.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10

You will never be good enough to please God with your very best attempts at righteousness.

To recognize that we cannot please God by our works frees us to serve Him, not out of an effort to gain His approval, but instead, out of the approval that we have already have through Jesus Christ.

Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes.” -Genesis 18:27

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.” -Isaiah 6:5

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” -Luke 5:8

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. -1 Timothy 1:16

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. -Romans 3:23

The performance trap is when we take on this idea that if we could only be a little bit better we would be fulfilled and secure. It means we also feel a sense of condemnation and guilt when we are not performing well.

Though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. -Philippians 3:4-6

How does the performance trap play out in our world today?

A) We attempt to please God by following rules.
B) We start to believe that our worth is based on what we produce and how we perform.


I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. -Philippians 3:7-9

Skuvbalon – rubbish, trash

We can never work our way to please God. We can never stop sinning our way to please God. The only way we can be made right with God is by faith in His Son, Jesus, and that alone.

So, if we are doing great, or if we are not doing so great, that doesn’t determine our standing with God. We don’t need to feel the guilt and the failure; instead, we can feel the acceptance and the love, and we please God out of the strength and the security of knowing that we are right with God through Christ, and that changes everything.

Questions for Small Group Study or Personal Reflection
  1. Why do we sometimes feel like we need to earn God’s approval?
  2. Are there areas in your life where you have been trying to make yourself feel more acceptable to God? What are they?
  3. We have been set free from having to earn God’s love. How does this give you confidence for your daily life?
  4. In your personal time this week read Galatians 2:17-21 and ask God to give you confidence through His unconditional love.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ethos

I generally spend about 90 minutes each week writing a column. It is usually 470 words, give or take a few. This won’t be one of those weeks where I spend 90 minutes. 15 minutes is all I have. I’m at home finishing my dissertation this week. I usually share something that has to do with vision, something that is lighthearted, or something that encourages or inspires. I hope and pray that you get something out of these little messages.

This week I’m sharing the seven major findings of my dissertation and research project (my mind is unable to come up with anything else). The paper and project are on the use of humor in public speaking and its relationship to affective learning. Here are a few of the terms:

Ethos – The perceived character, compassion, and credibility of the speaker.
Affective learning - The listener's eagerness to learn and utilize the material and competencies beyond the learning environment.

  1. The speaker’s effective use of sacred humor is useful in building an ethos with the listeners.
  2. The speaker’s perceived ethos is an important tool in building a relationship with the listeners.
  3. The speaker’s effective use of sacred humor is useful in building a relationship with the listeners.
  4. The speaker’s relationship with the congregation is an important predictor of affective learning.
  5. The humor orientation of the listener has no impact on the speaker’s perceived humor orientation, the speaker’s perceived ethos, interpersonal solidarity between the speaker and the listener, and the affective learning of the listener.
  6. Of the three constructs used in this project—perceived humor orientation, perceived ethos, and relational solidarity—ethos is the best predictor of affective learning.
  7. A sense of humor is considered to be a socially desirable trait.
The most important thing I discovered is the importance of ethos. In the congregations I surveyed, we asked about the speaker’s intelligence, delivery style, use of humor, use of media, how the speaker relates to the listeners, and ethos. Ethos was hands down the most important predictor of affective learning. (Humor and how the speaker relates to the listener were tied for second place.)

I wrote about ethos: Ethos is how the listener perceives the character of the speaker and how this perception affects the receptivity to the speaker’s message. Ethos is rhetoric's appeal based on character – as opposed to content (logos) or delivery (pathos). The numbers conclude that speaking, teaching, and preaching cannot be separated from the public, personal, and professional life of the speaker. This paper on humor has proven the old axiom is true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In Christ,

Craig

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Room with a View

I've been sitting in the same chair for the past 5 or 6 days working on my dissertation. The next 4 or 5 days aren't looking the best either. With the exception of the third picture, at least I have a nice view.




Monday, May 25, 2009

Birthday, Anneversary, Memorial Day

May 25th is always a special day for us. Today is Benjamin's 8th birthday, our 13th anniversary, and Memorial Day.




Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Water's Edge Live

I did two interviews this morning during The Water's Edge Live. One is with Larry Brown, a kidney donor. The other is with Fred Wilson, one of the survivors or the Von Maur shootings. These are stories of hope, forgiveness, and life.

Listen here

You will need QuickTime to listen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

God of this City

I noticed AJ is playing this song tomorrow. This video was filmed before Kris Allen was famous.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Limitations and Future Studies

Just in case your ever thought a dissertation on writing humor is fun I thought I would share this with you.

Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research

Very little, if any, quantitative research has been completed on the use of humor in the local church. This study focused on the pastor’s use of humor and also investigated the pastor’s ethos and the interpersonal solidarity between the pastor and the listener. All of these constructs were demonstrated to have a positive correlation with affective learning—one of the primary aims of preaching. This study lays the groundwork for future studies. Other constructs of preaching and their correlation on affective learning can be examined in the future. Other constructs include, but are not limited to, the perceived intelligence of the preachers, the preacher’s immediacy with the listener, the preacher’s pathos, the conversational style of the preacher, and the preacher’s use of multi-media. The surveys used in this study are thorough and somewhat lengthy. Further studies may need to be more lengthy, but many possibilities exist for future quantitative studies that can serve as a great resource for preachers, listeners, and churches.

This study focused on five pastors who have above average perceived humor orientations. Additional studies can examine pastors with average and below average humor orientations. Also excluded from this study were Roman Catholic and Charismatic Churches. Three of the five churches in this study were in large Midwestern cities. The remaining church were in Atlanta and Dallas. The review of literature described differences in humor in different regions of the country. This study was not able to draw any meaningful conclusion based on regional humor differences. Future studies can expand on the variety of pastors, churches, and regions of the country that are surveyed.

Another limiting factor of this study is the perceived ethos and relational solidarity of the preacher that occurs outside of the preaching. Two of the churches are new churches in their first three years. Both congregations average worship attendance at the time of the survey was around 100 people per week. Two of the churches are downtown congregations in large Midwestern cities. Both congregations average worship attendance was between 500 and 700 people per week at the time of the survey. The fifth church is a church that has an average worship attendance of about 1,300 people per week, but the preacher studied is the primary preacher at the contemporary worship service that had an average attendance of 300 people per week at the time of the survey. She is the primary pastor to the people of this worship service. All of the pastors have served these congregations at least three years when the surveys were distributed. Therefore, all of these pastors, to various degrees, have relationships and have developed a perceived ethos and relational solidarity with many of the survey respondents outside of the worship environment. A suggestion for future study would be to survey pastors of mega churches where the listener has very little exposure to the pastor outside of the worship environment.

Another suggestion for future study would be to examine the listeners on a more detailed level. This study did not consider the age and gender of the survey respondents. It grouped all survey respondents into a single pool. In the review of literature, it was demonstrated that age and gender play an important role on how humor is processed. Future study could investigate the role of listener’s age and its effect on how they process and respond to the pastor’s humor and how the pastor’s perceived humor effects perceived ethos, relational solidarity, and affective learning. These studies could prove useful for pastors serving congregations that have a majority of older congregants, younger congregants, and to pastors to middle school, high school, and college aged students. Likewise, the gender of the listeners can also be investigated. This study could be useful to male pastors who preach females and female pastors who preach to males. Also, the study could provide insight to pastors who preach primarily or exclusively to men or women—for example—prison or military chaplains.

A final suggestion would be to do this study or a similar study in a college classroom, political campaign, or other setting. The review of literature extensively discussed the differences between sacred humor and profane humor. In the local church, the expectation is that if humor is used then the humor used is the sacred variety. It should be noted that pastors do use profane humor such as excessive self-deprecation, satire, sarcasm, and teasing, but the expectation in the local church is sacred humor. The expectation of the prominent use of sacred humor does not necessarily exist in other environments where more aggressive and profane humor is commonly used and is often appreciated. The application of this proposed study could provide useful insight to sacred humor vis-à-vis profane humor and its effect on perceived ethos, interpersonal solidarity, and affective learning.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Humor and Church Health

From my dissertation:

As discussed above, humor can aid in building relationships. Because of this, it is no surprise that a significant relationship exists between humor and vitality in a Christian faith community (Schwarz 36-7). Participants in participating churches were asked to respond "true" or "false" to the following statement: "There is a lot of laughter in our church." Sixty-eight percent of participants in "high-quality" growing churches responded "true." Only thirty-three percent of participants in "low-quality" declining churches responded "true" to the same phrase (36-7). In a study of how apostolic churches reach secular people, one of the principles of an outreach focused church was to speak the language of the people (Hunter Church for the Unchurched 161-2). A church or a preacher neglecting humor is not speaking an important genre of the English language. Humor is a gift that first belongs to the church (Wiersbe 275). Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders. Leaders need a sense of humor to be able to understand, cope, and live through disappointments, failures, and surprises (Jones 33). Thriving teams enjoy each and laugh together (Groeschel 77-8). Sacred humor is one of God's gifts to humanity and can be offered as one of humanity's gifts to God in worship and in building relational solidarity among people.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goofy

Never a dull moment with Benjamin and David around the house.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Years Ago

Wow...how they grown. All I've done is lost my glasses and some hair.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Comedy Sunday 5

Here is my column for this coming Sunday: Comedy Sunday 5.

Welcome to Comedy Sunday 5. I’d rather be faithful than funny. I’d rather be Christ-like than comedic. But part of me believes that humor, laughter, and comedy are an essential part of the grace-filled and Spirit-filled life.

Conrad Hyers writes: The history of Israel begins—if it does not sound too impious—with a joke, a divine joke. The laughter of Abraham and Sarah at this joke was not so much a laughter of unbelief as of disbelief, as when we say "You can't be serious" or "You've got to be kidding." Yet it was a laughter that became the laughter of faith. Abraham and Sarah would be less inclined in the future to declare the impossible. And their laughter, in turn, would become the laughter of faith and hope for generations to follow. (And God Created Laughter 10)

Frederick Buechner expands on Abraham and Sarah’s story: Sarah and her husband had had plenty of hard knocks in their time, and there were plenty more of them still to come, but at that moment when the angel told them they'd better start dipping into their old age pensions for cash to build a nursery, the reason they laughed was that it suddenly dawned on them that the wildest dreams they'd ever had hadn't been half wild enough. (Peculiar Treasures 173)

Sarah and Abraham named their son Isaac—which in the Hebrew language means “Laughter.” A reading of Laughter's (Isaac's) sons, Esau and Jacob, shows redemption and forgiveness through parody and satire. Also evident is the humor of reversal when God takes the trickster over the diligent brother. Esau is mocked as a slow-witted, unsophisticated hunter with way too much hair. His younger brother Jacob, was a schemer who occasionally became the schemed. The twins both received their fair share of satire as they labored through life (see Genesis 25-27, 33). After a wrestling match at the Jabbok River, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. God later told Moses that "I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exod. 3:6, NLT). It turns out, to the Hebrew reader, that Laughter (Isaac) is the father of Israel (Jacob).

History's great comedy (a story with the surprise ending of good news) is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early Greek Orthodox Church, the day after Easter the people gathered to tell jokes and funny stories. They did this to celebrate the practical joke that God played on Satan. Satan thought that he conquered the world, but on the third day the tomb was empty and Christ had risen. The comedy of the Bible, specifically the story of Jesus Christ, is found in the fact that liberation and laughter come through God's victory in Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Craig

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Overcoming Addictions

I think this is the first time I have ever devoted an entire sermon to addictions. You can listen to this morning's sermon here. Thanks to Joseph O'Meara for speaking with me and thanks to Aaron Johnson for sharing his story. Here are the notes:

1. What is an Addiction?

Addiction is an uncontrolled, compulsive use of a behavior or substance.
Many types of addictions exist: Alcohol and narcotics are can be highly addictive. Non-substance addictions include, but are not limited to: sex, gambling, body image, clothes, money, food, running, the Internet, power, etc…

2. What leads a person to be addicted to something?

Addiction is generally a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

The biological view is that addictions, such as alcoholism, are diseases that our brains are wired up for.

Psychological - Co-morbidity: the clinical view that most addictions have a co-morbid (co-existence of two or more disease processes) dimension.

Social - The pain can be the result of deep wounds we received either as children or later in life. This is not to say all addicted people have some kind of childhood trauma, but the point is we have to know our stories and the stories of others if we are to be compassionate in the face of addiction.

3. Where does God fit in all of this?

Addiction in the spiritual realm can be seen as a desert experience. Moses and the Israelites spent time in the desert. They demonstrated withdrawals, longing for life of slavery, lack of trust, hoarding manna, idolatry, etc. Addictions like alcoholism or drug abuse may lead someone into the desert by destroying all of their relationships, taking away their ability to provide for themselves, or landing them in jail.

4. How do you recognize an addiction before it gets out of control?

  • Do you have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms if you remove a substance or behavior from your life?
  • Do you beat yourself up on a regular basis or see yourself as undeserving of grace?
  • Do you cover up or lie about behaviors you think others will disapprove of?
  • Do you use certain behaviors or substances to medicate pain in your life?
  • Have you tried again and again to stop a behavior and been unable to?

5. If you are addicted to something, what are the first steps you can take toward wellness?

1. Honest Self-Evaluation: Search your heart.
Ask, seek, and knock. (Matthew 7:7)

2. Embrace Grace: Forgiveness and repentance
For now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

3. Remember you are not alone
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:24-25)

4. Accept the Reality of Recovery
Accept that any authentic effort to break free from addiction comes with a price; it comes with the pain of letting go.

5. Get in Community
We cannot deal with this alone. Community is a necessary part of the process of healing and freedom. If you are someone who is invited into this journey, please rid yourself of the false notion that addicts are simply weak people that like being addicted and that it is not just a matter of them sucking it up and praying more or striving for perfection.

Bear each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2)

6. Seek out Resources
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
(Psalm 23:4)

The Psalmist uses the word “through,” indicating this is not an unending experience; it indicates that the valley ends somewhere, that the shadow will be replaced by light. Resources are available to help you walk through the valley.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Advancement

The boys in my Cub Scout Den advanced from Wolves to Bears tonight. They have all worked so hard this year. Congratulations boys!


Josh, Benjamin, and Nate after their advancement.


Amber and David enjoying the nice weather.


Benjamin and Nate on the GPS hike.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Campfire

"One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet." ~Odell Shepherd


This weekend was a Cub Scout camping weekend for Benjamin and me. Lots of fun: GPS hiking, fishing, good food, learning, friends, sleeping in a tent, great weather, etc...

The highlight of the weekend for us was the campfire. We brought a lighter, some starter logs, and lots of wood. About ten o'clock in the evening, we started our campfire. Within minutes the fire was roaring. It was amazing to see the world through the eyes of seven year old. He loved the campfire. It's almost as no video games or television shows ever existed. The campfire was the center of the universe. When it started to go down, Benjamin would throw a new log on the fire. If a spark would spill out of the pit, he would put out the fire and save the forest. He collected leaves and twigs and burned them. We talked next to the warmth of the fire. We cooked some bratwurst and marshmallows. As the fire started to go out, he sat on my lap as we talked some more.

The best two hours of my week! No question about it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hope on a Bicycle

I can't even explain this one, you just have to watch it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Alcoholics Anonymous

This Sunday I am talking about addictions. I ran into the following writing from Frederick Buechner.

Alcoholics Anonymous or A.A. is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. The ones who aren’t so sure about God speak instead of their Higher Power.

When they first start talking at a meeting, they introduce themselves by saying, “I am John. I am an alcoholic,” “I am Mary. I am an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group answers each time in unison, “Hi, John,” “Hi, Mary.” They are apt to end with the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer. Apart from that they have no ritual. They have no hierarchy. They have no dues or budget. They do not advertise or propelytize. Having no buildings of their own, they meet wherever they can.

Nobody lectures them, and they do not lecture each other. They simply tell their own stories with the candor that anonymity makes possible. They tell where they went wrong and how day by day they are trying to go right. They tell where they find the strength and understanding and hope to keep trying. Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another – to be available at any hour of day or night if the need arises. There’s not much more to it than that, and it seems to be enough. Healing happens. Miracles are made.

You can’t help thinking that something like this is what the Church is meant to be and maybe once was before it got to be Big Business. Sinners Anonymous. “I can will what is right but I cannot do it,” is the way Saint Paul put it, speaking for all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19). “I am me. I am a sinner.” “Hi, you.”

Hi, every Sadie and Sal. Hi, every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is the forgiveness of sins, of course. It is what the Church is all about.

No matter what far place alcoholics end up in, either in this country or virtually anywhere else, they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it. That is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Would it ever occur to Christians in a far place to turn to a Church nearby in hope of finding the same? Would they find it? If not, you wonder what is so Big about the Church’s Business.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Little Bit About Few Things

Yesterday

Wow. We almost had 500 people in worship yesterday. If you include kids, we had well over 500 people. This is 200 more people than last year at this time, 300 more people than two years ago, and about 500 more people than three years ago. We had a great worship experience as we celebrated Mother's Day and talked about what the Bible says about healthy relationships. It is so exciting to see God working in people's lives!

Prayer

I started praying for five individuals / families per week in the church this week. I have asked them to share prayer requests with me. I will pray for them for one week. I am excited about this ministry. Over the course of a year I will get the opportunity to pray specifically for 260 individuals / families.

Goalie

Benjamin got to play goalie tonight at his soccer game. It was the first time he has ever played that position. He stopped a few shots and played his hardest. After the game he said he was a little nervous. I was a little nervous too. We were all proud of him!

Paint and Clean Windows

I painted the trim on the front of the house today and also washed the windows. A seven year old son, a two year old son, and a giant dog make life joyful, but also complicated, especially when it comes to cleaning and painting. I have nothing either spiritual or insightful to report about this. It was relaxing and I did it because I knew it would make Amber happy. So maybe it was spiritual. Sabbath and serving. I still don't know about insightful. I couldn't have asked for a better day though.

Food

I had a great meal tonight with a small group from the church. They were celebrating their completion of Disciple Bible Study. I served them communion. The host family served boiled shrimp, potatoes, cabbage, onion, and carrots. It was a great time and great food.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Overcoming Dysfunctional Relationships

This morning's sermon was on creating and sustaining healthy relationships.

You can listen here.

I didn't get to the last two questions because of time constraints, I'll try to fit them into a future sermon.

Why am I a jerk to the people I love most, while showing my best side to the people I know least?

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same. -Matthew 26:31-35

How do I extend more grace than I am given?


Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. –Luke 6:37-38

How do I love somebody in the way that is most meaningful to them?

Do to others as you would like them to do to you. –Luke 6:31

The Five Languages of Love: #1 – Words of Affirmation, #2 – Quality Time,
#3 – Receiving Gifts, #4 – Acts of Service, and #5 – Physical Touch


How do people in a relationship fight well?

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3

How can I learn to trust more completely?


About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” -Matthew 14:25-31

How can I be present in an authentic way when I am with others?

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day Humor

None of this is original. Happy Mother's Day tomorrow to all the moms out there.

Top 10 Reasons You Know You Are A Young Mother
  1. You know all the words to the Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, and Dora the Explorer theme songs.
  2. You cut up your spouse’s food in little pieces.
  3. Your favorite piece of jewelry says "Mommy" on it and only cost $10.
  4. You have thousands of photos of your kids, but not a single one of yourself.
  5. Your feet stick to the kitchen floor … and you don’t care.
  6. The closest you get to gourmet cooking is making rice krispie bars.
  7. You stop criticizing the way your mother raised you.
  8. You've mastered the art of placing large quantities of pancakes and eggs on a plate without anything touching.
  9. You hope ketchup is a vegetable, since it's the only one your child eats.
  10. You say at least once a day, "I'm not cut out for this job", but you know you wouldn't trade it for anything.

The mother of three notoriously unruly youngsters was asked whether or not she'd have children if she had it to do over again. "Yes," she replied. "But not the same ones."

For weeks a six-year old lad kept telling his first-grade teacher about the baby brother or sister that was expected at his house.

One day the mother allowed the boy to feel the movements of the unborn child. The six-year old was obviously impressed, but made no comment. Furthermore, he stopped telling his teacher about the impending event.

The teacher finally sat the boy on her lap and said, "Tommy, whatever has become of that baby brother or sister you were expecting at home?"

Tommy burst into tears and confessed, "I think Mommy ate it!"

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beautiful Song

AJ is singing this song Sunday morning. It is one of my favorites to run to and to listen to in general. Beautiful song.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healing

I read this on Jennifer's blog:

My leg is wrapped. My hands are open. My knees are bent. My Healer is working.

On this side of the Fall, healing to the flesh sometimes comes slowly.
But on this side of the Cross, healing to the Spirit comes fully.

In that case, I am both healing ... and already healed.

Wonderful insight. You can read her full post here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayers I Pray Daily

Wesley's Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Paul's Prayer (I pray this for the boys)


When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. -Ephesians 3:14-19

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mother's Day


Here is my column for Sunday morning. Thanks to Frederick Buechner for his insight on being a parent. Check out his books Wishful Thinking and Whistling in the Dark.

Mother’s Day

The Bible tells us to honor our mother (Exodus 20:12). For some of us this task is simple and natural. For others it is difficult and contrived. Some mothers are nearly perfect. Others have made so many mistakes that only God can clean up the mess. Either way, God says, “Honor your mother.”

My mom, Bonita, is imperfectly perfect. For the last twenty-five years she has been a single parent. Despite her demanding job as an accountant and parenting my three older siblings, she loved me like I was the only one to love. I ran track and cross country in high school and college. She drove thousands of miles to see me run around a 400 meter track countless times. She was my biggest fan – celebrating the victories and encouraging me on the days I wished I was on the golf team instead of being a distance runner. She is not perfect, but as far as moms go, I am blessed. She enjoys and loves her many grandchildren. But she still loves me like I am the only one there is to love.

The role of being a parent is holy and sacred. Even if the parents are neither holy nor sacred, the role of parent is still sacred like the role of pastor is still sacred even if the pastor is a scoundrel. Being a parent is ordained by God, the creator and sustainer of life. Being a parent has responsibilities and rights. The responsibilities are many.

Entire books have been written on parenting: but praying, playing, listening, and modeling a Christian life are a good start. These responsibilities are for the parent of a six year old child and the parent of a sixty year old child. The rights are many as well: smelling the hair of a sleeping baby who has recently been bathed, laughing with the child exploring life, watching the child running races or dancing dances or singing songs, witnessing the child become who God wants the child to be, and having that child care for you when you are no longer able to care for yourself just like you once cared for the child when he or she was not able to take care of himself or herself.

Today is Mother’s Day. God’s command to honor your mother applies today as it does every day. Honoring them doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or worshipping them. It means seeing them for who they are and who they are not. It means loving God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as mothers at their best have tried to love us. It means listening to them, praying for them, playing with them, and taking care of them to the end of their days on earth.

To mom, Amber, and all the mothers reading this—Happy Mother’s Day!

In Christ,

Craig



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Overcoming Hoplessness


Here is my sermon from this morning. The movie was The Pursuit of Happyness. You can listen here.
Hope is a Gift from God

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:13

As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Thessalonians 1:3

Hope is a Choice

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. -Romans 15:4

Hope never abandons you; you abandon it. -George Weinberg

We have a choice to abandon God’s gift or to embrace it.

Hope is an Attitude

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” -Lamentations 3:20-24


  1. In all things it is better to hope than to despair. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  2. Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope. -Latin Proverb
  3. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. –Oscar Wilde
  4. Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn't permanent. -Jean Kerr
  5. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. -Anne Lamott

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God. -Psalm 146:5

Hope Means Tomorrow Can Be Better Than Today

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. –Philippians 3:13-14

Believing there is something better around the corner. –Michael Schumacher

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. –Albert Einstein

Life is Never Hopeless

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. –Genesis 8:1

When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God. -Charles L. Allen

Don’t Ever Stop Hoping

Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left. I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture. Yes, your land will again be filled with noisy crowds! Your leader will break out and lead you out of exile, out through the gates of the enemy cities, back to your own land. Your king will lead you; the Lord himself will guide you. –Micah 2:12-13

The moment we stop hoping is the moment we stop living

Hope is Eternal

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. -1 Peter 1:3-6

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. -George Iles

Saturday, May 2, 2009

15 Minutes

I think it was Andy Warhol who said something like, "Everybody will be famous for 15 minutes." I think I used most of mine up today.

Here is the Omaha World-Herald story about me from this morning's paper.

Thanks to Jordan Pascale for writing the story and to Rebecca Gratz for taking the pictures. I enjoyed working with both of you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Coming Soon

I finished my sermon planning this morning until the end of June. Here is a look at what is coming up.

In the next two weeks we will conclude our current series: God @ The Movies. We will continue to talk about what the Bible says about overcoming adversity in life.



Sunday, May 10th – God @ The Movies: Terms of Endearment

Come celebrate Mother’s Day with us. We will look at what the Bible has to say about relationships. Craig will share ways to strengthen dysfunctional relationships and will also talk about practices to make healthy relationships even better.


Sunday, May 17th – God @ The Movies: When a Man Loves a Woman

An addiction is an obsession, compulsion, or excessive psychological dependence on something. Some of us have severe addictions. Most of us have casual addictions. God can help us regain balance and wholeness in our lives. Others can help to. Craig will give us a message of hope that recovery from addiction is possible.

The next Sunday, May 25th, we will shift gears, lighten up, and laugh.


Sunday, May 24th – Comedy Sunday 5
Back by popular demand...it's Comedy Sunday 5. You will laugh, learn, have fun, be challenged, smile, and be inspired. You will experience joy, grace, delight, and forgiveness. It will be a Sunday you won't want to miss and a Sunday you won't forget.
Humor is not the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair. -Conrad Hyers
There is a time to laugh. -Ecclesiastes 3:4
You Don't Have What it Takes
Beginning on May 31st we will start a new series: You Don't Have What it Takes. Sometimes trying to juggle all the things life throws at us can feel like a three-ring circus. No matter how hard we try, we'll never be able to handle all of life’s challenges on your own. Bet you didn't know that was a good thing!


May 31st - You Don’t Have What It Takes to Handle Everything
June 7th - You Don’t Have What It Takes to Be Good Enough
June 14th - You Don’t Have What It Takes to Please Everyone
June 21st - You Don’t Have What It Takes to Control the Future