Sunday, January 31, 2010

40 Things I've Learned in 40 Years

Here is this morning's sermon. Listen here.
40 Things I’ve Learned (or at least should have learned) in 40 Years: Wit and Wisdom from Saints, Sinners, and My Journey with God
40. I have learned that each day is a gift. I should accept it, embrace it, use it, and share it.
39. I have learned to learn from my mistakes. Or at least I should have this one figured out by now.
38. I have learned that it is the pebble in your shoe and not the mountain in front of you that will likely wear you out.
37. I have learned the journey of the thousand miles begins with a single step.
36. I have learned that to risk is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to risk is to lose oneself. –Søren Kierkegaard
35. I have learned that our life always expresses our dominant thoughts. It’s kind of like this: our thoughts become our words which become our actions which become our habits which become our character which becomes our destiny.
34. I have learned that love is not an adjective; it is a verb.
33. I have learned that friends are the brothers and sisters that God didn’t give us by birth.
32. I have learned that we look most like Jesus when we serve others.
31. I have learned that anger is destructive to everyone who is in proximity of the angry person. I’ve also learned that the person who suffers the most from anger is the one who is angry.
30. I have learned that the marriage relationship is the most important human relationship that I have.
29. I have learned that I would rather fail as a pastor than fail as a father.
28. I have learned that I should accept people for being their true selves, encourage people to become their true selves, but never allow somebody to be ruined by their self-destructive behaviors.
27. I have learned that joy is not in things; it is in us.
26. I have learned when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.
25. I have learned that the entire population of the world, with the exception of one person, consists of people other than myself.
24. I have learned that it is by grace I have been saved, through faith—and this not from myself, it is a gift of God. –Ephesians 2:8
23. I have learned that I am God’s masterpiece. –Ephesians 2:10
22. I have learned that big dreams lead to a big life.
21. I have learned that sometimes it’s not ready, aim, fire. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim! –Steve Sjogren
20. I have learned that the world is made up of imperfect people and, therefore, any relationship I am going to be in will also be imperfect. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” –Romans 3:23
19. I have learned that sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden; sin is forbidden because it is hurtful.
18. I have learned that in running, and in life, the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare. –Juma Ikangaa
17. I have learned that sometimes life is hard, but our response makes a difference. Pain in life is inevitable; suffering is optional.
16. I have learned that I can’t go back and start a new beginning, but I can start today and make a new ending. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” –Philippians 3:13
15. I have learned vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare.
14. I have learned to give up the good to go for the great.
13. I have learned that we can’t change other people. We can only change our reaction to those people.
12. I have learned that forgiveness is the key to contentment. Forgiving and living is better than remembering and resenting.
11. I have learned not to forget to love myself.
10. I have learned that one of the most productive uses of my time is investing in future generations.
9. I have learned that my attitude in life determines life’s attitude toward me.
8. I have learned that forty years from now I will be more disappointed by the things that I didn't do than by the ones I did do. I will dare, discover, and dream. -Mark Twain
7. I have learned that I am closest to God and my life makes most sense when I read the Bible daily.
6. I have learned it’s best to do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. –John Wesley
5. I have learned rest isn’t a waste of time. Rest is necessary for a fruitful life. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28
4. I have learned that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for my power is made perfect in weakness. -2 Corinthians 12:9
3. I have learned that the function of prayer is not necessarily to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. –Søren Kierkegaard
2. I have learned that God makes saints out of sinners. God has always been and will always be in the business of changing lives. Few things in life are as beautiful as a changed life.
1. I have learned that God loves me. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Run, Walk, Crawl, Finish

If you can't run, then walk. And if you can't walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up. -Dean Karnazes

Friday, January 29, 2010

February Bible Reading Plan

February's Bible reading plan focuses on the Seven Deadly Sins. The next 28 days will allow us to examine our lives and hopeful remove some of these self-destructive behaviors from our lives. I encourage you to use the SOAP method of reading the Bible found at the bottom of the page.


Envy

February 1 Matthew 18 – Focus on verses 1 to 4
February 2 John 3 – Focus on verses 26 to 30
February 3 Romans 13 – Focus on verses 11 to 14
February 4 Philippians 1 – Focus on verses 15 to 18

Lust

February 5 Philippians 2 – Focus on verses 12 to 16
February 6 Romans 6 – Focus on verses 1 to 14
February 7 Proverbs 5 – Focus on verses 1 to 21
February 8 Psalm 19 – Focus on verse 13

Gluttony

February 9 Proverbs 23 – Focus on verses 20 and 21
February 10 2 Timothy 3 – Focus on verses 1 to 9
February 11 2 Peter 1 – Focus on verses 5 to 7
February 12 Galatians 5 – Focus on verses 22 to 23

Greed

February 13 Deuteronomy 6 – Focus on verses 10 to 13
February 14 Luke 12 – Focus on verses 13 to 21
February 15 Matthew 16 – Focus on verses 24 to 26
February 16 Matthew 26 – Focus on verses 14 to 15

Sloth

February 17 Proverbs 6 – Focus on verses 6 to 11
February 18 Proverbs 10 – Focus on verses 4 and 5
February 19 Proverbs 26 – Focus on verses 13 to 16
February 20 2 Thessalonians 3 – Focus on verses 6 to 15

Anger

February 21 Matthew 5 – Focus on verses 21 to 26
February 22 Mark 3 – Focus on verses 1 to 5
February 23 James 3 – Focus on verses 2 to 6
February 24 Proverbs 12 – Focus on verse 16

Pride

February 25 2 Kings 19 – Focus on verses 23 to 29
February 26 Matthew 11 – Focus on verses 20 to 26
February 27 Luke 14 – Focus on verses 7 to 11
February 28 2 Corinthians 12 – Focus on verses 6 to 10

Complete the "S" by reading the scripture. Don't just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.

Complete the "O" by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.

Complete the "A" by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?

Complete the "P" by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don't worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Life Lately

Ironic that a dissertation on humor can be quite dry at times. The editing and revisions are almost done! Here is a sample of what I am grinding through.

Hypothesis #1

A positive relationship will be demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived ethos.

Hypothesis #la

A positive relationship will be demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived competence.

Hypothesis #lb
A positive relationship will be demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived goodwill.

Hypothesis #lc

A positive relationship will be demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived trustworthiness.

Pearson Product-Movement Correlation demonstrated a positive correlation between the preachers’ perceived humor orientation and the perceived ethos of the preacher. The null hypothesis is rejected (table 3). The results show that a small positive relationship has been demonstrated between the preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived ethos with r=0.27, p-value <.01; a small positive relationship has been demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived competence with r=0.24, p-value <.01; a small positive relationship has been demonstrated between the preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived goodwill with r=.14, p=value <.05; a small positive relationship has been demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived trustworthiness with r=.11, p-value <.05.


The current study indicates the pastor’s effective use of sacred humor is useful in building an ethos with the listeners. A positive relationship is demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and perceived ethos. A positive relationship is also demonstrated between a preacher's perceived humor orientation and the three components of perceived ethos: perceived competence, perceived goodwill, and perceived trustworthiness.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WD - 40 to the Rescue

A typical day.

1. Wake up. Shower. Get the boys breakfast. Cheese Grits for Benjamin. Oatmeal for David.

2. Drop Benjamin off at school.

3. Realize that I am out of gas.

4. Coast into the gas station.

5. Put 16.27 gallons of gas in a 16 gallon tank.

6. Drive through the car wash for the first time in 6 months.

7. Drive to my office.

8. Get out of my car and realize that it really is dark green.

9. Work on church stuff and edit dissertation all morning and afternoon.

10. Meet with a couple who I am doing a wedding for in March.

11. Benjamin comes to my office after the kid's ministry.

12. Snag some leftover fried chicken from the youth room and call it dinner.

13. Leave the church with Benjamin.

14. Try to unlock clean car that has been in my outside in the freezing weather for 11 consecutive hours.

15. Realize locking my doors may not have been the best idea I had all day. Can't get in car because the locks are frozen.

16. Go to my office and get some WD - 40.


17. Use one of the best products ever invented to get into my car.

18. Stop at Sonic to celebrate the invention of WD - 40, me getting chapter 4 edited and revised, and Benjamin getting all the questions on his math test correct. Peanut Butter Fudge Malt for me. Banana Spilt Sundae for Benjamin.

19. Help Benjamin with homework.

20. Read a few chapters of Once a Runner.

21. Talk to Amber.

22. Fall asleep.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sex

Amber and I are talking to a bunch of high school students this weekend about sex. Here are some of Frederick's Buechner's thoughts on the subject:


Contrary to Mrs. Grundy, sex is not sin. Contrary to Hugh Hefner, it's not salvation either.

At it roots, the hunger to know a person sexually is the hunger to know and be known by that person humanly. Food without nourishment doesn't fill the bill for long, and neither does sex without humanness.

Promiscuity is an appealing view in that anything goes as long as nobody gets hurt. Who is to say who gets hurt and who doesn't? Maybe it will be years before the X-rays show anything. Maybe the only person who is hurt is you.

Sex is sinful to the degree that, instead of drawing you closer to the other human beings in their humanness, it unites the bodies but leaves the lives inside them hungrier and more alone than before.

Sex can be holy and sacred, after all it is God's idea and without sex the human species would become extinct in about a hundred years or so. Sex can also be secular and profane. As Buechner writes, sex is a lot like nitroglycerin, it can either blow up bridges or heal hearts.

(See Wishful Thinking pp. 107-109)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ekklesia Apostolos

Here are the Bible verses from my sermon this morning. I talked about the six functions of the church.

Listen here

Stare into the Eyes of God

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” –Revelation 4:8-11

Pair up with Friends

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. –Acts 2:42-44

Care for Each Other

They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. –Acts 2:45

Dare to Live

Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.

“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. –Daniel 3:19-28

Bear the Pain of the Hurting People

Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority. –Matthew 9:1-8

Share Your Faith

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” –Matthew 9:35-37

Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received! “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. –Matthew 10:5-9

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boys

I spent the day with the boys and Amber, after she got home from work this afternoon. My favorite thing is doing nothing with them.

These pictures are from two years ago. They grow so fast!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Halftime

I remember halftime of the Nebraska – Missouri football game last fall. It was a Thursday night. It had rained three or four inches in Columbia that day. Nebraska’s offense had been anemic, at best, during the first half. The defense was playing well, but Nebraska trailed nine to nothing. Things didn’t look good.

At halftime, the Nebraska coaches and players must have done something right as far as planning and dreaming and motivation, because the Cornhuskers scored twenty-nine points in the second half and won twenty-nine to twelve. The team that was dominated became dominating. Because of the adjustments, the second half was much better than the first half.

Well, it’s halftime for me. I’ll be forty on February 2nd. The life insurance calculators have me living eighty years. So it’s time to go to the locker room, make a game plan, dream a little bit, get some inspiration, and then go play the second half. During the second half:


  • I will not seek to be known as a good husband, father, and pastor. I will seek to know and to be known by my wife, boys, and people.
  • I will spend more time relating to God through reading the Bible, praying, worshipping, and whatevering. Investing in growing this relationship has never been a waste of time. On the contrary, my time and energy spent with God has always been multiplied.
  • My boys, ages 8 and 3, are trying to figure life out and I’m one of the two people who serve as their primary example. I will be a better example.
  • I will listen more and talk less. I’ll seek to be more understanding of others and to be more interested in what God is doing in the lives of others.
  • I will spend less time and energy trying to be successful and I will spend more time and energy being significant.
  • I will be quicker to forgive during the second half. Others and myself.
  • I will take more risks. I’d hate to get to the end of the game wondering what might have been.
  • I will be myself and not who others want me to be or think I should be.
  • I won’t beat myself up over mistakes I’ve made. Since I can’t change the past, I will learn from it and move on.
  • I will be more encouraging of others. The words of encouragement I have spoken have been the best words to come out of my mouth.
  • I will share my faith more actively. I would hate for anybody to miss out on the post game party.
  • I will invest more time, energy, and resources in the next generation.
  • I will spend more time and energy helping and creating systems that help the hurting, the marginalized, and the oppressed.
  • I will spend more time with the people I love the most and enjoy the life I have remaining.

In Christ,

Craig

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Passion

Thoughts on Passion

When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn. -John Wesley

There is no greatness without a passion to be great. -Anthony Robbins

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. -Benjamin Franklin

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself. -Miguel de Unamuno

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Authentic Friendship

Here is this morning's sermon. You can listen here.

Here are the notes and a study guide:

We all want to be known as influential, successful, or something else we see as impressive. In fact, we spend a lot of time and energy projecting an image of ourselves that we think will gain us acceptance from others. But this isn't who we really are, and if we aren't careful, we'll end up going through life without being truly known by anyone. And this will rob us of ever knowing true acceptance.

There are not many things in life so beautiful as true friendship, and not many things more uncommon.

One of the things we need most in life is to be known and accepted by somebodies for exactly who we are and then loved by those persons too much to leave us that way.

Questions to consider

What do you really want to be known for?
How are you practicing image management?

Authenticity

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. –James 5:16

Friendship is one mind in two bodies. -Mencius

Application questions

Do you let anyone know about your struggles?
Is there anyone who truly knows you and can accurately pray for you?

Encouragement

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this? -Henry David Thoreau

Application questions

How can we encourage each other?
How can we push each other to deal with the shortcomings we try to hide?

Faithfulness

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. -Galatians 6:1-3.

Friends are like pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up and sometimes they lean on you.

Application questions

What does it look like to be "gentle" with each other's shortcomings?
How can we carry each other's burdens, those things that we shouldn't carry alone?

Acceptance

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. –Romans 14:1

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. -Romans 15:7.

A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.

Application Question

How can we do a better job of accepting people where they are and then helping them grow into who they need to be?

THINK ABOUT IT

How do you fill in the gaps between the person you project to others and who you really are?

Do you give partial information or stretch the truth or bring up your successes every chance you get?

Watch yourself this week and look for signs of image management

How can you be more transparent and how can you make your real self known to others?

See also:

A wonder little book "The Way to Love" by Anthony de Mello
A sermon "Doing Life" by Andy Stanley
An excellent small group resource is ReGroup by Cloud and Townsend

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spiritual Hearing Aids

Here is tomorrow's column:

This is from my childhood friend, Jennifer. You can read more of her writings at www.gettingdownwithjesus.com.

Dad needed them badly, but he didn't want them at all. He was afraid he'd look like an "old fart," with chunks of hard plastic hanging on his ears, squealing with feedback now and then. So years passed, and he refused the hearing aids, and his world became more and more muffled. He'd respond in conversation with a repeated refrain: "What? What did you say?"

He acquiesced a couple years ago, and was fitted with a set of hearing aids that tuck discreetly behind the ear. When I see the flesh-colored plastic behind his ears, I remember my own hearing problem.

I need hearing aids, too -- not for my physical ears, but my spiritual ones. The world is shouting at me with buzzing Blackberries, whirring washing machines, and spiral-bound schedules that read like run-on sentences, page after scribbled page. "God where are you?" I cry out. "What did you say?"



And I think of the people who seem to hear Him so well over the din of their day. They readily quote Scripture, and have answers, and seem poised under pressure. And me? I stumble and fumble and jumble the words and can't hear the Voice. Maybe I've been too proud, at times, to wear my hearing aids.

The National Institutes of Health report that only about one out of five people who would benefit from hearing aids actually use them. Perhaps they think their hearing isn't so bad after all? Perhaps I think the same. But in my inner spirit, I know this: My hearing problem isn't too small; my pride is just too big. The voice of that green monster named Pride shouts: "You don't need God's help. You can handle it on your own." I know how sweetly the Voice speaks when I do wear my hearing aids. I scold my busy-self for not doing so often enough: When I know how much better I hear with hearing aids, why do I sometimes refuse?

And so I push the pause button on my life to listen for the still, small voice of the Great Big God. I mute the voice of the green monster, and I put on my hearing aids like this:

I fall into the secondhand chair with the wooden arms and I open the Book. And in the Living Words, He speaks. I don't hear an audible Voice, but I hear reverberations from Spirit to spirit. He woos me with His Voice in the Word.

Lord, Forgive me for the times I pass by the chair, and turn me back to the Voice that woos: "Jennifer! Jennifer!" Your Word is my best hearing aid. Strip me of my pride, and draw me back into Living Letters that make ears tingle. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Amen."

Thanks Jennifer.

In Christ,

Craig

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Friendship

I'm talking about biblical friendship Sunday morning. One of the things we need most in life is to be known and accepted by somebodies for exactly who we are and then loved by those persons too much to leave us that way.

Authenticity

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. –James 5:16

Friendship is one mind in two bodies. -Mencius

Encouragement

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this? -Henry David Thoreau



Faithfulness
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. -Galatians 6:1-3.
Friends are like pillars on your porch. Sometimes they hold you up and sometimes they lean on you.
Acceptance
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. –Romans 14:1
Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. -Romans 15:7.
A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bigger Frying Pans

Here is yesterday's sermon. You can listen here. Here are some of the notes:

Two men went fishing. One man was an experienced fisherman, the other wasn't. Every time the experienced fisherman caught a big fish, he put it in his ice chest to keep it fresh. Whenever the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back. The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing this man waste good fish. "Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?" he asked.The inexperienced fisherman replied, "I only have a small frying pan."

Sometimes, like that fisherman, we throw back the big plans, big dreams, big jobs, big opportunities that God gives us. Our faith is too small. We laugh at that fisherman who didn't figure out that all he needed was a bigger frying pan; yet how ready are we to increase the size of our faith? As we begin our future, let's look for a bigger frying pan.


What are you doing that is so big that if God wasn’t involved you would fall flat on your face?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. –Matthew 6:31-34

  • Seek God.
  • Live obediently.
  • Depend on God.
  • Don’t worry

Let me rephrase the question:

What are you praying about that is so big that if God wasn’t involved you would fall flat on your face?

Do you really want to spend another year going to God with the little stuff that is probably going to be taken care regardless of if you pray or not?

Pray: God, if You don’t it won’t

Here is my challenge to you: This year I want you to commit to latch on to something that is bigger than you and I want you to be relentless in praying for this.

I want you to ask God something that honors and glorifies Him for how big He is. When we go to God with something big, God is not bothered…God is honored.

The size of your prayers determines the size of your God.

God can move mountains

  • Overcome addictions
  • Help me heal from a broken heart
  • Use me as a blessing to my city
  • Help me raise these kids to become men and women who will change the world
  • Help me beat this disease
  • Allow me to leave a legacy at this church so that others may know how big You are

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
Father, may your name be kept holy.

May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’

He calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.

Keep on seeking, and you will find.

Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. -Luke 11:1-13

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What do you usually find yourself praying for?

Read Luke 11:1-4. What do we learn about the basics of prayer from the model that Jesus gave us?

Read Luke 11:5-8. What do we learn from the boldness and persistence of the person in this parable? What does this tell us about how God wants us to approach him?

Read Luke 18:1-8. Is there anything that you have prayed about as consistently and persistently as the widow? What have you seen God do with that request?

Read Luke 11:9-10. What is it that you want God to do this year? What will you ask, seek, and knock for on a consistent basis?

How should we adjust our group prayer time to take into account what Jesus taught about prayer?

THINK ABOUT IT

When you pray, what do you find yourself praying for? Please help me not to be late. Please, just help me pass this next test. Lord, I really need to close this deal. Ultimately, what does it all add up to? Is there anything that you are praying for on a consistent basis that will not happen unless God steps in? How should your prayer time change based on what we've discussed?

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

When will you set aside time this week to begin praying for something big?

CHANGING YOUR MIND

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

See "Asking Big" from Andy Stanley
Click here for Campus Crusade for Christ
See "Leading with Vision" a wonderful book edited by Dale Galloway

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow, Wind, and Cold or Making Lemons Out of Lemonade

Snow can be very nice. After it falls it is beautiful. It is good for skiing, sledding, making snowmen, snow angels, and throwing snowballs.

Wind is also a good thing. Where I grew up in northwest Iowa there are hundreds of wind farms that are outstanding sources of energy for the region. Wind can be used to fly kites and wind surf. There’s nothing quite like a cool breeze in the evening after a hot summer day.

Cold can be good too. As a runner, my favorite thing to do is put my overheated head underneath the water spigot at Lake Zorinsky. Some food needs to be stored where it is cold. Most of us enjoy many of our beverages cold.


I’m convinced that snow, wind, and cold are all good. The last month has convinced me that snow, wind, and cold—when combined—are not so good. As I write this, the kids are downstairs playing when they would normally be in school. I have an hour or so of moving snow in front of me this afternoon. Driving is a little more difficult. It isn’t much fun being outside. Actually it isn’t any fun being outside. We were able to have our Christmas Eve services, but many people were unable to get to them. Three days later we were unable to worship on Sunday morning. Many families, including ours, were not able to see each other. This weather is especially difficult on homeless people, people with inadequate shelter, handicapped people, and elderly people who have difficulty getting around even when the weather is good.

On Christmas morning, Benjamin and David woke up. Amber and I had been up for an hour or so. I looked at the driveway. We weren’t even going to make the short trek to Amber’s parent’s house in Papillion. It would just be the five of us. (I’m including Georgia the giant dog who is the only one of us to venture outside on Christmas Day.) The boys investigated the Christmas tree, the stockings, the snow on the deck, and Santa’s eaten cookies. We opened presents. We played games. We hung out. The weather outside was not going to change what was happening inside.

I’ve made it through thirty-nine Christmases. I’ll always fondly remember this one. Part of me thinks this is the closest we have ever come to capturing the spirit of the original Christmas: Joseph and Mary celebrating God making Himself one of us with the people they loved the most. Simple. Beautiful. Lovely. Precious. Graceful.


An old axiom exists that goes something like this: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Sometimes life is tough. Cold, wind, snow, illness, dysfunction, injury, brokenness, unfairness, addiction, etc… Bad things happen. Jesus tells us such will be the case. We get to choose this day how we react to the lemons that are thrown our way. I pray that we will all become experts at making lemonade.

In Christ,

Craig

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Law of Diminishing and Negative Returns


The above graph displays the correlation between minutes run and the benefit from the workout. It is only an estimation and is not universally applicable. The minutes run are the horizontal axis and the benefit is the vertical axis. The graph makes the assumption that running is a regular and not sporadic activity.
By observing the orange line, the first 50 minutes provide the highest rate of return in benefit for each minute run. Minutes 50 to 80 still provide a pretty good return. Minutes 80 to 120 provide a diminishing return, but still of positive return. Any minute run over 120 minutes of running provides a negative return.
  • If time is at a premium = Run 50 minutes a day
  • If you want to have a life outside of running = Run 80 minutes a day
  • If you want maximum performance = Run 120 minutes per day
Note that benefit does not increase on a straight line basis. Few things in life work this way.
Note also that there is almost no difference in benefit from running 90 minutes to 120 per day.
Note also that running 70 minutes per day provides the same benefit as running 180 minutes per day.
The reasons for the three above observations are quite simple. The body begins to break down after a certain amount of stress and recovery has to happen. If the body is not allowed to recover, the muscle breaks down and the benefit is decreased.
Economists know this as the Law of Diminishing Returns. Examples might be dumping planting 10 seeds into a small area of soil. Adding 1 more seed would probably be helpful. Adding 100 more seeds would cause chaos and not allow any of the seeds to bear any kind of fruit.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with anything. One word: balance.
You can have too much of a good thing: running, seeds, pizza, cleaning the bathroom, and even friends. (If you had 1000 friends do you really think it would be possible to have the deep friendships required to sustain us?)
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. -Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quotes on Vision and Dreams

I'll be talking about vision for our lives this weekend. Here are some quotes to think about:

Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe. -Gail Devers

You see things; and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?'" -George Bernard Shaw




What is not started today is never finished tomorrow. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you. -Tom Bradley

To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind. -Seneca


Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. -James Allen
Where you come from is not nearly as important as where you are going. -Unknown

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bigger Frying Pans

Here is a parable:
Two men went fishing. One man was an experienced fisherman, the other wasn't. Every time the experienced fisherman caught a big fish, he put it in his ice chest to keep it fresh. Whenever the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back. The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing this man waste good fish. "Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?" he asked.The inexperienced fisherman replied, "I only have a small frying pan."
Sometimes, like that fisherman, we throw back the big plans, big dreams, big jobs, big opportunities that God gives us. Our faith is too small. We laugh at that fisherman who didn't figure out that all he needed was a bigger frying pan; yet how ready are we to increase the size of our faith? As we begin our future, let's look for a bigger frying pan.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Beginning Your Future: First Things First

I started a new sermon series this morning: Beginning Your Future. Listen to the message First Things First. Here are some of the Bible verses I used:

Covenant with Noah

Then God told Noah and his sons, “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth. Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.” –Genesis 9:8-11

Covenant with Abraham

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” –Genesis 12:1-3

Covenant with Moses

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people.” –Exodus 24:12

Covenant with David

For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. -2 Samuel 7:12-13

Covenant with Jesus

But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. -Hebrews 8:6

For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. –Hebrews 10:22

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. -Matthew 26:26-28

Saturday, January 2, 2010

One Month in the Bible

Here is the Bible Readings to go along with sermons in January.

When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, ''It is talking to me, and about me.'' -Soren Kierkegaard

Commitment – Week 1

January 3 Psalm 37:1-11
January 4 Ruth 1
January 5 1 Samuel 8
January 6 Romans 2
January 7 Mark 9
January 8 Matthew 26
January 9 Matthew 28

Vision – Week 2

January 10 1 Corinthians 13
January 11 Galatians 1
January 12 Galatians 2
January 13 Galatians 3
January 14 Galatians 4
January 15 Galatians 5
January 16 Galatians 6

Community – Week 3

January 17 Psalm 2
January 18 Daniel 2
January 19 1 Corinthians 11
January 20 Philemon 1
January 21 Matthew 18
January 22 Luke 5
January 23 2 Samuel 12

Purpose – Week 4

January 24 James 4
January 25 John 13
January 26 John 15
January 27 Micah 6
January 28 Matthew 10
January 29 Acts 1
January 30 Acts 2

Consider using the SOAP Method of Bible reading for the next month.

Complete the "S" by reading the scripture. Don't just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.

Complete the "O" by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.

Complete the "A" by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?

Complete the "P" by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don't worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Beginning Your Future

Here is my column for Sunday morning:

January 1st started a new year. 2010. It’s a new decade as well. New Year’s Day means different things to different people. Some spend it with their families. Some travel. Some enjoy their day off. Others are recovering from the night before. Others watch parades. Others watch college football and lots of it.

Many people also set New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never been sure about the difference between a resolution and a goal, but I assume they are about the same thing. We make resolutions or set goals because we have some kind of discontent with who we are. We want to be a little different in the future than we were yesterday. Here are the ten most common New Year’s resolutions Americans make:
  1. Spend More Time with Family and Friends
  2. Fit in Fitness / Tame the Bulge
  3. Quit Smoking
  4. Enjoy Life More / Reduce Stress
  5. Quit Drinking / Drink Less
  6. Get Out of Debt / Save Money
  7. Learn Something New
  8. Take a Trip
  9. Help Others / Volunteer
  10. Get Organized
Today we are starting a new worship series called: “Beginning Your Future.” A few weeks ago I was in the big ball at Epcot Center riding Spaceship Earth. It isn’t one of those thrill seeking rides. It is pretty slow-paced, but fascinating. It looks at our past, our present, and our future. One of the phrases I heard near the end of the ride was: “Beginning Your Future.” I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head. It made sense, was obvious, and is something most of us are interested in: Beginning Our Future. We make resolutions, we set goals and we dream about tomorrow.

What we are going to do on the Sundays in January is engage God in the conversation about Beginning Our Future. God wants and has something to say about our present and future. He wants to be part of it and help us have our dreams come true. I look forward to taking this journey with you.

I hope you have a blessed 2010 and I hope your dreams come true.

-Craig